What Is Aromatherapy? How Does It Work? | Whole Home Scenting

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What Is Aromatherapy and Its Benefits?

Aromatherapy candles

Aromatherapy is growing increasingly popular. You may have seen products on the shelves of your local grocery store or been to a spa and received an aromatherapy treatment. It is something that numerous people are interested in and many enjoy. However, a far smaller group understand what aromatherapy actually is beyond just pleasant smells.

What Is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic oils from natural sources to promote holistic healing and well-being. In other words, it uses smells from certain sources to have a physical effect on you.

Historically, it has been used to improve physical, mental and spiritual health. This may sound like a hokum to some. However, aromatherapy has gained traction in the medical and scientific fields in recent years.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

The oils used in aromatherapy come from flowers, herbs, trees and other plants. Specifically, the bark, roots, peels and petals that give plants their fragrant scents are the parts that are used. These oils are sometimes called essential oils because they are derived from the cells that give the plants their “essences.”

Those oils are either distilled into another form, such as a candle, or used as is. Aromatherapy may be applied alone simply by sitting and relaxing while smelling the fragrances. However, it is most often combined with other relaxing activities, such as taking a bath, receiving a massage or doing a skin treatment. Aromatherapy is often used to enhance relaxation.

When we smell something, odorous particles are hitting receptors in our noses. These receptors then send signals to our brains with information about the particles. Our brains then interpret the fragrance in a variety of ways. Some scents appear dangerous or repulsive to us, and others are relaxing and inviting.

The limbic system of the brain handles olfaction, this interpreting of fragrances. It also plays an important role in emotion and stress. This relationship is why experts believe that there is more to aromatherapy than just a nice smell. The close relationship of our sense of smell with our emotions creates an opportunity for scents to affect our well-being profoundly.

Chances are you have experienced this before. Perhaps you have walked into your home to the smell of cookies or smelled the familiar fragrance of a loved one. These scents can cause us to experience pleasant emotions.

When Was Aromatherapy Invented?

Aromatherapy history

As you may know, although aromatherapy is becoming trendy, it is no modern invention. It is believed to have been practiced thousands of years ago in China, India, Egypt and elsewhere.

In these cultures, people infused resins, balms, and oils with aromatic plants in an alike manner to modern aromatherapy products. These substances were then used for medical and religious purposes. It appears that ancient people found the plant parts to have physical and mental benefits.

Essential oils, the form of aromatherapy most used today, appear to have originated in Persia in the 900s A.D. However, the distillation process may have existed earlier than that.

In Europe, physicians recognized the power of essential oils for treating diseases as late as the 19th century. The emergence of modern medicine caused many physicians to turn toward using almost exclusively chemical medicine. However, some continued to explore the potential of natural cures.

More recently, scientists and doctors have begun to explore the efficacy of more natural and holistic treatments. The shortcomings of chemical drugs have become increasingly apparent. Therefore, many people are looking for other solutions.

Although there is a lot more research to be done, recent studies have backed up some of the purported effects of aromatherapy. Furthermore, it has been practiced independently by numerous cultures and physicians throughout history. Each of them has observed some positive benefits from the practice. While plenty of ancient medicine was ineffective, aromatherapy appears to be the real deal.

What Are the Benefits of Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy benefits

There are many purported benefits of using aromatherapy. Some of them are genuine and backed up by scientific data. Others are less clearly established, and still more are completely false. These are some of the known and believed benefits of aromatherapy:

  1. Stress Relief: One of the best understood and most studied benefits of aromatherapy is its ability to reduce stress. As mentioned, the part of the brain that processes the aromas is also linked to your emotions. Enhancing your positive feelings and promoting relaxation can help you better handle stress and anxiety.

  2. Improved Sleep: Similarly, aromatherapy is associated with improved sleep. Again, this benefit has received significant scientific interest and is relatively well-demonstrated in studies. The ability of aromatherapy to improve relaxation and reduce anxiety helps to soothe users to sleep.

  3. Reduced Pain: Some research suggests that certain types of pain can be eased through aromatherapy. Studies have examined the effect on pain from kidney stones and osteoporosis. In both cases, users reported eased pain, but these studies were smaller. There is still much more to be learned on this topic.

  4. Minor Relief From Chronic Illness: Aromatherapy appears to provide an improved quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. This does not mean that it will treat the illness. However, the effects of aromatherapy can help to make the symptoms a little more manageable. At least one study has found the quality of life benefits for people with dementia.

  5. Fight Bacteria: Some evidence suggests that the essential oils used in aromatherapy may fight bacteria when used topically. This claim is less scientifically-backed than some of the offer benefits.

  6. Ease Side Effects of Treatments: In the same way that aromatherapy can improve quality of life for people with chronic illness, it can help manage the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy. Users report that it helps mitigate nausea and pain.

These benefits can positively impact various conditions, including arthritis, asthma, insomnia, cancer, depression, erectile dysfunction, inflammation, menopause, menstrual symptoms and more. All these conditions can benefit from relaxation and reduced pain. Keep in mind that they are unlikely to be treated by aromatherapy but can be easier to manage with its practice.

The above benefits are gaining recognition in the scientific and medical fields. However, some claimed benefits of aromatherapy are almost completely unproven currently. For example, some proponents suggest that it can treat heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Additionally, the benefits for chronic illnesses, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, are limited to quality of life. There is currently scant evidence that it can treat those illnesses.

Are There Any Drawbacks To Using Aromatherapy?

Overall, aromatherapy is generally considered safe. Its mechanism is smell, so the potential for serious side effects is relatively minimal.

Nonetheless, the oils used in aromatherapy products may cause some side effects, including irritation of the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. It is unlikely that this irritation would be severe. However, if you notice any irritation, stop using the products immediately and consider consulting a healthcare professional before continuing.

These side effects can typically be mitigated by mixing the essential oils with carrier oils. The problems primarily arise from the fact that essential oils are potent. If the oil is mixed with other, inert ingredients, it will be significantly safer to use.

Another potential side effect is a mild allergic reaction. Again, this would be specific to the product being used. It is unlikely that you would experience a serious reaction. Nonetheless, it is best to stop immediately if you notice anything that does not appear right.

Although this would not be considered aromatherapy, some people try to ingest the oils. This can cause damage to the kidneys and liver. Do not use the products for anything other than aromatherapy without first consulting a doctor.

Finally, perhaps the greatest potential drawback of aromatherapy is it’s perceived as a “snake oil.” Since it is an ancient practice, there are innumerable claims about the possible benefits of aromatherapy. Some benefits are backed by scientific study. However, others are little more than wishful thinking. If the benefits of aromatherapy appear too good to be true, they probably are. Although the practice can help with health and wellness, do not expect it to cure serious diseases. See your doctor for major medical issues.

What Are Some Ways To Use Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy uses

Aromatherapy has a lot to offer most people. Nearly all of us deal with stress in our lives. You may be wondering how you can enjoy the benefits mentioned above.

If you are uncertain about starting with aromatherapy, consider making an appointment with a trained provider. The process typically starts with a consultation during which the aromatherapist will ask some questions about lifestyle and health. Be careful of any providers making overly bold claims about the benefits.

The aromatherapist will offer advice and guidance on tailoring the practice to your needs. He or she may also offer a treatment session. You can also find a great deal of online guidance on how to use aromatherapy for various benefits. Again, be mindful of claims made by any proponents, especially on the internet. Nonetheless, if you manage your expectations based on the science, you can enjoy the practice.

There are numerous products available for aromatherapy. These are some of the most popular:

  1. Candles: You’ve likely seen aromatherapy candles in stores. They are simple to use, have little risk of an adverse reaction and smell great. This is a good way to enjoy a more soothing environment anywhere.

  2. Body Products: Many skin-safe body products have aromatherapeutic properties. If you are just getting started, consider using a lotion. For a more advanced version, mix the essential oils with a carrier oil and apply them directly.

  3. Incense: This product is similar to candles. You can burn it to create a pleasing aroma around the room. Many people find this a little less practical than candles for home use.

  4. Massage: The above three types of aromatherapy are often combined with massage. Obviously, this isn’t something you can easily do yourself. However, it can be a highly effective way to mitigate stress.

  5. Meditation: Again, this practice can be combined with aromatherapy for a more relaxing effect. There are even guided meditation apps you can find today. It is effortless to get started.

  6. Diffusers: This is perhaps the best way to make your home a more relaxing place to live. A diffuser vaporizes the essential oils and spreads them around to enhance relaxation. Whether you want to enjoy an aromatherapy session or use the same principles to make your home more pleasant all the time, this is an excellent option.

Different aromas have unique effects. Some of the most popular options include lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, mandarin, ginger and others. Certain aromas are more relaxing while others are more invigorating. Consider speaking with an aromatherapy expert to get guidance on which scents are right for you.

What Is the Best Way To Enjoy Aromatherapy at Home?

If you want to use aromatherapy in your home, consider a whole-home diffuser system. These devices connect to your HVAC system to spread aromatic vapors around your entire house. They are straightforward to use and designed to work safely and simply with your existing ducting.

Whole Home Scenting whole home diffusers are highly effective and can offer numerous fragrance options that can provide a pleasant, relaxing scent throughout the house. The fragrances are phthalate- and paraben-free, meaning they are safe for you, your family and your pets. This is the best way to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy throughout your home.

Our premium fragrances include citrus, chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, and other relaxing, aromatherapeutic ingredients. With an Whole Home Scenting diffuser, you have complete control over the fragrance of your home. You have the power to change the mood and feeling of your home to be relaxing, lively, light or cozy.

You do not have to use our diffusers for just aromatherapy. If you simply want to enjoy a pleasant smell in your house, they work well for that also. This is a simple way to ensure that your home always smells the way you want it to.

Check out our whole home diffusers and fragrances. Soon you will be enjoying the relaxing effects of aromatherapy throughout your entire home.

Photo credit: VisionPic (woman breathing in), Magicbowls (monk with bowl), Breakingpic (candles by towel), Daria Shevtsova (oils and mixing poweders)
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