For many, the words “aromatherapy” and “essential oils” conjure up images of a relaxing spa message or a room emitting a musky fragrance from an incense burner in the corner. However, this perception of essential oils as being used for soothing, enhancing well-being, or as a safe alternative to toxic compounds, doesn’t go far enough. They are much more powerful!
The University of Maryland’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide reports that over 6000 years ago, essential oils were “being used for spiritual, therapeutic, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes.” In fact, the authors state, “Aromatherapy did not become popular in the United States until the 1980s. Today, many lotions, candles, and beauty products are sold as ‘aromatherapy.’ However, many of these products contain synthetic fragrances that do not have the same properties as essential oils.” (I expanded on the history, science, and applications of ancient aromatherapy in my article on an immune-supporting essential oil blend, which you can access here.)
Furthermore, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) writes on their website:
Aromatherapy, also referred to as Essential Oil therapy, can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
It was the French perfumer and chemist, Rene- Maurice Gattefosse, who coined the term “aromatherapie” in 1937 with his publication of a book by that name. His book “Gattefosse’s
Aromatherapy” contains early clinical findings for utilizing essential oils for a range of physiological ailments. It seems vital to understand what Gattefosse’s intention for coining the word was, as he clearly meant to distinguish the medicinal application of essential oils from their perfumery applications.
So we can interpret his coining of the word “Aromatherapie” to mean the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing. As the practice of aromatherapy has progressed, over the years, it has adopted a more holistic approach encompassing the whole body, mind and spirit (energy).
WebMD goes far enough to say that oils can be used as a treatment, which is an FDA no-no claim for distributors of essential oils!
Healing at Your Nose
Thankfully the perception that volatile scents are mostly for beauty, fragrance, and relaxation is being expanded to include their therapeutic applications, with a little help from marketing. Aromatherapy.com states, “A form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy is gaining momentum. It is used for a variety of applications, including pain relief, mood enhancement and increased cognitive function.” (Interesting on how an ancient medicine that has been around for thousands of years is considered an “alternative.”)
Earlier this week, I released an article describing how essential oils can support us in stressful times, through multiple mechanisms. As explained in a previous blog, essential oils are synergetic and very versatile in how they enhance our wellness. “…essential oils have much more applications beyond soothing effects and smelling pretty. Essential oils don’t just impact our sense of well-being, but can impact many pathways at once.5,8,11 This means a pleasant scent doesn’t just have effects on calming our brain, but can also affect our hormones, neurotransmitters, and stress response, making their impact profound and holistic.”
In fact, one article in Current Drug Targets discussed the molecular pathways modulated by essential oils as follows, “In the current study, the effectiveness of aromatherapy for alleviating psychiatric disorders was examined using data collected from previously published studies and our unpublished data. A possible signaling pathway from olfactory system to the central nerve system and the associated key molecular elements of aromatherapy are also proposed.”
My Clinical Experience
I was just sent a question from a wonderful newbie if essential oils could harm the gut microbiome. Here was my response:
“There is evidence the oils positively influence the belly bugs and support digestive health as they kill bad critters. Essential oils are also antioxidants and immune balancers. This means they don’t only get rid of the bad bugs, they support our bodies as they do it! Initially, someone could experience a “die off response” causing gas and bloating; however, this is usually temporary as the body’s belly ecology rebalances. In this case, you may want to support the digestive tract and make sure the gut lining is intact to prevent discomfort. Peppermint can also be helpful as a digestive tonic.”
Recently, a few of my clients have had some digestive distress or microbe infections. The response I get after I suggest oils is the same, “those oils are something! I felt better in a day! Even though symptoms took a little while to go away, the well-being was there immediately and I could feel my body get stronger.”
Yup, that’s our oils folks!! How grateful are we all for this!! Have a beautiful weekend and don’t forget to use those tips in my stress blog as needed.
Click here to read my latest blog, “Five Tips to Support You Through the Holidays, Political Havoc, and Hormones.”
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This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.