Essential oils are highly concentrated oils extracted from various parts of aromatic plants, flowers and trees. They are most commonly extracted by steam distillation, a process whose origins may be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia. Unlike ordinary vegetable oils like corn and safflower, essential oils are very volatile and will evaporate if left in the open.
The chemistry of essential oils is very complex. There are hundreds of components, such as terpenes, aldehydes and esters. Because of this an essential oil can be used to help a wide variety of disorders. Lavendar has antiseptic, antibacterial, antibiotic, antidepressant, analgesic, decongestant and sedative properties. Due to their tiny molecular structure, essential oils applied to the skin can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. One must use caution with all essential oils, some may be toxic. We recommend "The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils", by Julia Lawless for further information on the commonly used essential oils.
Essential Oils also reach the bloodstream as a result of the oils themselves being inhaled. When inhaled, they pass through the tiny air sacs to the surrounding blood capillaries by the process of diffusion. Once in the bloodstream the aromatic molecules interact with the body's chemistry. Aside from their medicinal properties, smelling an essential oil can uplift the spirits, making you feel better. Our sense of smell is interrelated with the limbic system, an area of the brain which is primarily concerned with emotion and memory. This influence of aromas on our psyches has led many aromatherapists to practice a form of aromatherapy called 'psycho-aromatherapy', using essential oils to enhance the moods and emotions.
Holistic healing has long been concerned with looking at the causes and prevention of illness rather than fixing the symptoms. With holistic healing we take responsibility for our own health. The use aromatherapy should be in conjunction a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise. Aromatherapy can be used in conjunction with most other forms of treatment including psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, medical herbalism and orthodox medicine. The use of aromatherapy as a stress reducer is most common, and with so many wonderful essential oils to choose from everyone can benefit.
An aromatherapy massage can help to balance one emotionally while also aiding in loosening tight muscles. In enabling a person to deeply relax and let go of their worries, if only for a short time, is powerful enough to activate the body's self-healing ability. Combining the physical and emotional effects of massage with the medicinal and therapeutic properties of essential oils alleviates stress and improves one's mood. Essential oils can be helpful for women's problems, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal distress.
Essential oils can help with moderate anxiety and depression, insomnia, sexual difficulties, digestive disorders, headaches and muscle aches and pains. Many essential oils are wonderful for skin care. They balance sebum (the skin's natural oil secretion) and help to tone the complexion in supporting capillary function. Essential oils can be used in hair and scalp products to improve the circulation of the scalp, to prevent dandruff and promote healthy new hair growth. Directly applied essential oils can heal many minor skin problems: athlete's foot, cold sores, ringworm, scabies, psoriasis, dry skin, oily skin and more. Steam or direct inhalation of essential oils can help reduce cold and flu symptoms such as coughs, tonsillitis, sore throats, sinusitis and bronchitis.