What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy’s unique appeal is that something natural and fragrant can have beneficial effects on both body and mind at the same time.
Essential oils are the soul of the plant. They are like the blood of a person. They are not the whole plant, but are whole, organic substances in themselves. Like blood, they will die (lose their life force) if they are not properly preserved.
The properties of herbs and essential oils may be much the same, but the therapeutic action itself is different. These two forms of therapy are not synonymous, but complimentary!
Aromatherapy is a great way to promote health and well-being!
IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE AROMA!
The word aromatherapy can be misleading because it suggests that it is a form of healing which works exclusively through our sense of smell and on the emotions.
This is not the case!
Apart from its scent, each essential oil has an individual combination of constituents which interacts with the body´s chemistry in a direct manner, which then in turn affects certain organs or systems as a whole!
It is important to recognize that essential oils have four (4) different distinct modes of action regarding how they interact with the human body!
- Therapeutical / Psychological
The cosmeceutical effect is when essential oils have beneficial cosmetic and therapeutic effects on skin health and beauty.
They are applied topically and contain essential oil constituents that have an effect on skin cell function to help improve healing, skin tone and texture, pigmentation and fine lines.
The functional effect is similar to the communication of the plants via essentials oils. Either to attract or to repel.
Essential oils work as great protectors against fungi, bacteria and other "predators" such as ticks and mosquitoes to mention a few.
They are applied topically on bare skin or on clothing.
The pharmacological effect is concerned with the chemical changes which take place when the constituents of an essential oil enters the bloodstream and reacts with the human body.
After entering the body through the nose, skin or internal routes, individual constituents selectively bind to specific targets in cells and tissues, most notably proteins or cell membranes. By modifying their functional properties, bioactive constituents can directly affect physiological processes in the body.
For example, they may reduce inflammation by modifying specific signaling pathways in immune cells or help calm the mind by binding to specific receptors in nervous tissue.
THERAPEUTIC / PSYCHOLOGICAL
The psychological effect takes place, when an essence is inhaled and an individual responds to its odor.
This initiates a cascade of neurological processes that activate different parts of the brain and finally lead to the conscious experience of smell.
The perception of smell feeds back to the neurophysiological processes to modulate mood, emotions, cognition, physiological arousal and behavior.
References: The Art of Aromatherapy - Robert B. Tisserand
The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils - Julia Lawless
Tisserand Institute - Essential Oil Education