“Aromatherapy is the use of naturally extracted essential oils from fruits and plant for improving overall wellbeing, aiding in the treatment of ailments, and stimulating the senses. Inhalation of the oils stimulates the brain’s response through the olfactory system and the direct application of oils are absorbed through the body’s largest organ, the skin.”

What are essential oils?

There is a common confusion between essential oils and oil infusions. To infuse oils with scents such as common garden herbs is a simple process of soaking the herb in the oil. This is very different from an essential oil where the process of creation might give you high school chemistry nightmare flashbacks. Essential oils are made by physically separating the oil from the water of an organic material through the process of distillation. According to Dr. Brian Lawrence, “for an essential oil to be a true essential oil, it must be isolated by physical means only.” He goes on to explain that the physical methods of isolation include steam, steam/water, and water distillation can be used for the vast majority of organic materials used for essential oils; he states that expression, or cold pressing, is a unique technique for citrus peel oils; the last method is specific to a very limited number of essential oil plants called maceration/distillation. In this process the plant material is macerated (soaked in a liquid to soften) in warm water to release the enzyme-bound essential oil. Maceration distillation is used for organic material such as onion, garlic, wintergreen, bitter almond, etc.

Where did it all start?

Aromatic plants have been used for healing qualities throughout history. There were religious ceremonies performed by ancient Egyptians that used oils, waters, incense, resins, and ointments; the Chinese recognized the benefits of herbal and aromatic remedies producing one of the oldest herbal texts, Pen Ts’ao by Shen Nung, that catalogs over 200 botanicals. History has also shown use of aromatic plants by the Romans and the Greeks; traditional Indian medicine also used the same aromatic herbs. These healing plants took on a more modern role in 1937 when a French chemist introduced aromatherapy as a medical discipline and stumbled upon the healing properties of lavender oil when he suffered a severe burn while working and soaked the burn in the closest available liquid, lavender oil.

The Benefits

Aromatherapy offers a large range of physical and psychological benefits depending on the oil or combinations of oils or even the method of use for the oil. The benefits include but are not limited to the following list:

  • Analgesic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Astringent
  • Sedative
  • Antispasmotic
  • Expectorant
  • Diuretic

The oils can treat a wide range of conditions and symptoms from certain illnesses as well. This is just a list of some of the conditions and symptoms known to be improved through the use of essential oils:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Skin conditions
  • Menstrual pain
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Stress-related conditions
  • Mood disorders
  • Circulatory problems
  • Respiratory infections

Here is a table of common essential oils and conditions they help treat:

Name Description Conditions Treated
Clary Sage Relaxant, anticonvulsive, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic Menstrual and menopausal symptoms, burns, exzema, and anxiety.
Eucalytus Antiseptic, antibacterial, astringent, expectorant, analgesic Boils, breakouts, cough, common cold, influenza, and sinusitis
Chamomile Sedative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, pain reliever Hay fever, burns, acne, arthritis, digestive problems, and menstrual/menopausal symptoms
Lavender Analgesic, antiseptic, calming/soothing Headaches, depression, insomnia, stress, sprains, and nausea
Peppermint Pain reliever Indigestion, nausea, headache, motion sickness, and muscle pain

For more great information on essential oils and all their benefits visit

Any risks?

With any good thing we must always be aware of any possible risks or side effects from use. Even with naturally derived ingredients it is a possibility to have a situation that might not be best suited for the use of essential oils or aromatherapy.

  • Citrus-based essential oils are phototoxic, meaning that exposure to direct sunlight shoulder be avoided for at least four hours after their application to prevent increased risk of sun burn.
  • Many essential oils are highly toxic and should not be used for aromatherapy at all. These include but are not limited to: bitter almond, pennyroyal, mustard, sassafras, rue, and mugwort.
  • Some essential oils, such as eucalyptus, wormwood, and sage should never be taken internally.
  • Other essential oils like cinnamon leaf, black pepper, juniper, lemon, white camphor, eucalyptus, ginger, peppermint, pine needle, and thyme can be extremely irritating to the skin if applied in high enough concentration or without carrier oil or lotion.
  • Also, be aware that certain essential oils shoulder no be used by pregnant or nursing women.

The side effects vary by the type of essential oil used. If an allergic reaction is noticed be sure to discontinue use and contact your healthcare professional for further guidance. Individuals should do a small skin patch test with new essential oils before using them extensively.

How can essential oils be used?

Now that we have covered what aromatherapy is as well as the pros and cons of the therapy lets discuss the many ways to incorporate these healing herbs into your daily life.

  1. Inhalation: this is the most basic method of using aromatherapy. Several drops of an essential oil can be applied to a tissue or handkerchief and gently inhaled. A few drops can also be added to a bowl of hot water and used in a steam treatment. There are also essential oil diffusers, vaporizers, and light bulb rings that can be used to disperse essential oils over a large area. This technique is recommended for treatment of a respiratory or skin condition.
  2. Internal Use: some oils can be taken internally. Be sure to always seek advise from a qualified healthcare professional and never administer treatment for yourself.
  3. Direct Application: due to the potency of some essential oils adding them to an oil or lotion and then applying to the skin can help to prevent allergic reactions.

Now about aromatherapy and massage…

There are many benefits to getting aromatherapy with your massages. During the massage the inhalation of the essential oils as well as the absorption through the skin is intended and thought to promote changes to the mind and affects parts of the brain that in turn affect the nervous system. Each essential oil has different properties and are used to treat different conditions. For example, some relieve stress and anxiety while others energize and uplift. There are event essential oils that can be used for relieving headaches, insomnia, or depression.
Most clinics that have a licensed massage therapist will also offer aromatherapy options. The next time you book a massage ask about the addition of aromatherapy to help make the most of your treatment.

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By | 2018-05-11T16:03:52+00:00 May 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on

About the Author:

Dr. Gomez is a resident bone cruncher at Balance. With a passion for helping people and a penchant for attracting zebras, Megan finds happiness in the people she works and plays with, and her amazing husband Daniel.