Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years. Well-known civilizations like the Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians used aromatherapy in the form of balms, resins, and essential oils.
The inhalation of essential oils is considered a form of medicinal treatment, as it involves incorporating multiple herbs and plants, from cardamon to cinnamon, juniper, rosemary, and thyme. These natural ingredients have been used as indirect immune system stimulants to promote the healing process.
Today, aromatherapy continues to benefit millions of people as a natural healing method. But how does it actually improve well-being?
This article will delve into the nature of aromatherapy and its benefits, as well as the role that terpenes play in aromatherapy applications.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a kind of treatment that uses plant extracts. These extracts are processed into essential oils that can either be inhaled or applied to the skin. People often use these essential oils topically during baths or massages.
What makes these oils interesting is the presence of terpenes in the plants’ flowers. Terpenes are known to give various plants their scents. Depending on the plant, terpenes produce a unique smell resulting in a more robust scent as found in rosemary and lavender.
According to experts, aromatherapy activates smell receptors in the nose. When this happens, the receptors send messages to the brain, which then releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin.
Some experts also think that topical application of essential oils triggers a response in the skin and other parts of the body, such as the joints. This reaction then stimulates the immune system to help fight bacteria and ease pain.
While there are different kinds of essential oils in the market, the most common ones are lavender, chamomile, cedarwood, and bergamot.
Benefits of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has various proven benefits. Here’s a quick look at how it improves well-being:
1. Eases anxiety and stress
A study found that essential oils may help reduce anxiety and stress. The results showed that subjects who incorporated rose water and lavender oils into their routine had noticeably lower anxiety levels.
The research involved 260 students divided into control and treatment groups. The subjects applied the essential oil solution through inhalation. After a four-week evaluation, the results showed an overall improvement in the emotional condition of students who received the treatment.
2. Improves sleep
An example of essential oil that exhibits significant sedative effects is cedarwood. It contains cedrol, a compound shown to improve sleep quality, especially among older adults with dementia. One study suggests that cedarwood’s sedative elements can help increase sleep time across different age groups.
Another study, titled “Complementary Therapies in Medicine,” has confirmed that aromatherapy helps improve sleep quality. However, the researchers note that caution must be observed regarding the amount used in its application.
3. Relieves headaches and migraines
Another benefit of aromatherapy is its ability to relieve headaches and migraines. Lavender is an essential oil widely used to treat these types of pain. For centuries, people have used this natural extract as a mood stabilizer, sedative, and antihypertensive ingredient.
A study published at the National Library of Medicine concluded that lavender essential oil may be a safe and effective alternative in treating migraine. The results showed that patients who inhaled lavender essential oil experienced less severe headaches and improved well-being compared to those who did not.
4. Eases chronic pain
A clinical study that had evaluated the effect of essential oils on alleviating chronic neck pain showed that aromatherapy can be a viable option in reducing stiffness. In turn, the treatment helps facilitate stress reduction. The results also suggest that aromatherapy can potentially treat knee pain, menstrual pain, and even post-caesarian section pain.
The researchers note that aromatherapy may be integrated into a multimodal pain management plan for better results.
However, people who use essential oils for pain relief must be cautious before applying them to the skin. Irritation and inflammation may occur, so be sure to dilute the essential oil using a carrier oil.
Around 10 drops of the essential oil for every tablespoon of the carrier oil is enough to apply to the skin. Dab the affected area with the solution and massage to loosen the muscles and alleviate the pain.
5. Promotes relaxation
Aside from treating body pain, aromatherapy also relaxes the mind. An herb called clary sage is said to contain anxiety-relieving properties.
A study that had investigated the effect of essential oil inhalation on the nervous system found that the subjects who inhaled clary sage had a decreased blood pressure and respiratory rate. The results suggest that aromatherapy may be effective in lowering stress levels and inducing relaxation.
Aromatherapy: A Timeless Treatment that Improves Well-being
Aromatherapy has been an important part of human evolution, producing several benefits for the mind, body, and soul. From easing stress and anxiety to improving sleep, it continues to be an excellent treatment alternative in holistic medicine.
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