There’s a great deal more to aromatherapy than heavenly fragrances! The true essential oils used in aromatherapy actually interact with your brain to trigger the release of specific, predictable neurochemicals, setting off biological reactions which you experience as sensual pleasure, relaxation or invigoration.
Yet you don’t have to be a chemist (or even take a chemistry class!) to mix your own massage and bath oils for specific results, or to create special blends for after bath spritzers, headache compresses and sensual or spiritually uplifting room fresheners.
Aromatherapists emphasize that synthetic fragrances literally don’t have the same effect as essential oils. Interestingly, many people who are allergic to perfumes can enjoy and use essential oil fragrances.
So if you are after more bang for your buck, go for the pure scents derived from plant essences, otherwise known as essential oils! They seem more expensive, but they’re so powerful and concentrated that you usually use only a little each time. With a shelf life of 3 years minimum, you’re investing in years of pleasure with a couple of small bottles.
Ways to use essential oils:
– To make a massage or bath oil, you use at most 25 to 30 drops of selected essential oils for 4 ounces of an unscented “carrier oil” like almond oil.
– For a room full of sensual or energizing fragrance use a single drop of essential oil on a cold light bulb and then turn it on.
– Want incredibly fragrant and sensual massage oil? Mix ylang ylang, patchouli, neroli (orange blossom) and maybe rosewood oil (or the extremely precious rose oil). And wow!
-Make an after-bath energizing spritzer with 2-3 drops of pine, mountain spruce or lemon oil in a cup of water to boost your energy in the morning more quickly (and healthily!) than coffee.
The real deals
There’s plenty of detailed information on each group on the Internet, but here’s a primer:
Aldehydes usually have citrus-like fragrance, such as lemongrass and citronella, and are the most calming. They’re also anti-inflammatory (for baths or massage oils) and somewhat anti-viral.
Alcohols (not like the beverage) include rose, rosewood, tea tree oil, peppermint, sandalwood and patchouli. They stimulate energy and vitality, are mildly anti-viral, and anti-bacterial.
Phenols like clove, cinnamon, thyme and oregano are even more strongly anti-bacterial, stimulate the immune system, and are invigorating and warming.
Ketones like camphor, rosemary and sage (not clary sage) need to be used with caution when inhaled, because too much of the same properties which ease mucous production can harm fatty (brain) cells. They are a good addition to wound healing compresses, and stimulate new growth.
Terpenes include lemon, orange, bergamot, pine and angelica, and are the most powerfully energizing of all the essential oils. They’re anti-viral, but can cause irritation if the pure oil is applied directly to the skin.
Sesquiterpenes like blue chamomile, tansy and yarrow are quite sedative, as well as being the most powerful anti-inflammatories, and immune stimulants. They’re an excellent addition to soaks for swelling and sore muscles, and wound compresses.
Esters such as regular chamomile, clary sage, arnica and the ever-popular lavender are excellent, calming sedatives. They’re also anti-fungal, and soothe spasms (another great addition to healing soaks). Wet a washcloth with 2-3 drops of one in warm water for a headache compress.
Ethers like ylang ylang, basil, tarragon and parsley are very harmonizing for the entire nervous system, but also energizing. They also soothe spasms, and are antiseptic.
Quick chemistry lesson
The better oils include the Latin name of the oil on the label, because, for example, eucalyptus citriodora is calming, while eucalyptus radiata (Australian eucalyptus) is an energizer, but you’ll usually have to research the Latin name (easy on the Internet) if you need to double-check specific chemical components.
Two cautions. Consult an expert before using any form of aromatherapy if you’re pregnant. Also, while it’s well known that essential oils can also be used in internal healing, because they’re so potent, some can be toxic. So, don’t use any essential oils internally unless they’re recommended by an expert.
Let the fun begin…
Of course, your sense of smell is the very best way to select essential oils you want to use, and the blends you want to create. To change your mood breathe them in with an essential oil candle, diffuser or cotton balls, each with one drop, in individual baggies (keep in purse or car!). For spiritual cleansing, fill the air with juniper berry, cedarwood, clary sage (not plain sage – too powerful in this form!) or lavender. To lift your mood, try ylang ylang. To get your brain cranking add rosemary or peppermint.
The possibilities are simply endless. Above all, aromatherapy is incredibly fun, so give yourself and your nose permission to be playful and inventive while soothing, healing and energizing your body, mind, emotions and psyche.
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