Aromatherapy is a simple ancient practice that has some known potential benefits, even though it uses the weakest of the five senses that humans have.
The sense of smell is a very poor sense among humans when compared to most of the animal kingdom, and it's perhaps because of this fact that when the body is stimulated by specific smells, the body reacts sometimes quite strongly.
Sometimes a strong scent will evoke a comforting childhood memory. Or, sometimes a smell can create fear or give you a sense of warning or danger.
You've had your whole face well up and flush or even eyes water when smelling something spicy, and you've had your stomach tighten and face scrunch up a great deal when you smell something unpleasant. Also, you've felt your lungs stretch and muscles loosen when you've inhaled the scent of a fragrant rose.
That's all a sense of aromatherapy, and that's how it works on the body.
The scientists who have studied aromatherapy know that the smell receptors in the nose get activated by aromatherapy, and it sends messages through the nervous system directly to the brain.
The smells will activate certain sections of the brain, like the limbic system that plays a role in feelings and emotions. The sensory stimulation on your body may also impact your hypothalamus which is a gland in the brain that controls hormones. That part of the brain responds to the essential oils by creating a brain chemical that makes a patient feel extra good and euphoric.
Some scientists and health experts agree that when the odors are inhaled, the response activates other parts of your body, like your head, joints, and limbs.
When the scent enters the body, through aromatherapy or not, it stimulates the receptors in the nose and sends messages through the nervous system. Then, the scents trigger the nervous system and have been known to enhance both emotional and physical health.
Think of aromatherapy as both a science and an art.
Is Aromatherapy Worthwhile?
The short answer to the above question is yes. Aromatherapy is a worthwhile science, and it can do no harm to your health, so why not give it a try.
Dr. Brent A. Bauer who is part of the Department of Internal Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic located in Rochester, Minn., is also a leading researcher in the field of aromatherapy. He gives advice and educates about the use of aromatherapy.
He has pointed out that the research on the effectiveness of aromatherapy is indeed "limited" in what you can heal by using essential oils that are extracted from plants.
But, Dr. Bauer points out that many studies show that aromatherapy can have health benefits that include improving your sleep, relief from anxiety and stress, reversing feelings of depression, improved quality of life for people with chronic illness, and reduction of pain, among many other ailments.
Some scientific studies have shown that aromatherapy helps people who have painful kidney stones, it improves the quality of life for people living with dementia, and reduces pain for people with arthritis.
In general, aromatherapy can be done inexpensively because it is oils extracted from a part of the plant and then distilled. The concentrated concoction can be inhaled directly, or indirectly, and it can also be directly applied to the skin through massages or baths.
Because many of the herbs and plants used in aromatherapy are very common, the costs for using them should not be too expensive, and they should fit into any lifestyle and budget.
The practice of aromatherapy has not been regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but few harmful effects have ever been recorded. The most prominent complaint is that when essential oils are applied to the skin, there could be some kind of an allergic reaction on the skin, resulting in a rash or possibly temporary sensitivity to the sun or heat.
This is one of the reasons that it may be easier and safer to find aromatherapy products that do not touch the skin, or rub onto the skin directly, and depend solely on ingesting the smells through the nose, such as using inhalers, candles, incense, or rings.
How Does Aromatherapy Affect the Brain?
Aromatherapy does not affect the brain but stimulates it by using smell receptors in the nose that sends messages to the limbic system that controls the whole body. The limbic system is the part of the brain that controls our emotions and behaviors. It reminds us to eat, care for our young, reproduce, and other survival instincts.
Aromatherapy has been proven in clinical trials to show that it affects blood pressure, respiratory rates, heart rates, brain waves, and other parts of the body. These studies and clinical trials prove that the research surrounding essential oils can improve ailments such as anxiety, depression, and dementia.
Although it is maligned as the weakest of human senses, the sense of smell allows aromas to register and travel faster to the brain than both sight and sound. That quick transfer to the brain also allows fast physical responses and triggers vivid memories very quickly.
Aromas from essential oils can travel from the nose (the olfactory nerves) and go directly to the brain through the amygdala, which is the emotional center of your brain. It is a holistic way to use natural plant extracts and affect that brain center through unique and powerful scents.
It can also be absorbed into the body by putting it into an oil that is rubbed or massaged into various parts of the body directly onto the skin.
Other methods of getting the benefits of essential oils include soaking the oils in a cotton ball or cloth and inhaling the aromas. Nasal inhalers, oral diffusers, or easy-to-use rings are safe and simple ways to absorb the best of aromas and not experience allergic reactions or rashes on the skin.
One of the easiest ways is by using Rin'GO Aroma, which is a breakthrough in the simple use of essential oils. It's a cellulose ring that is environmentally friendly and mixed with essential oils. You wear it and the effects take place in 10 to 20 minutes, or even less.
It may be the best way to experience aromatherapy.