Aromatherapy refers to the use of essential oils for perfume and to promote general wellness. Essential oils are steam distilled from the volatile oils in certain plants. Although these fragrant treasures have enjoyed a particular resurgence in the last 40 years, the oldest discovered essential oil distillation unit—terra cotta fashioned—is about 5000 years old! They’ve played a key role in human history, blurring boundaries in their usage between medicine, aesthetics and spirituality. Today we know that essential oils affect both our minds/emotions and our bodies. Inhalation of different oils produces different effects on the mood (some may uplift the psyche while others may calm nervous tension), while topical application may assist (for example) in healing injuries such as bruising and sore muscles. Generally speaking, oils may be used in a diffuser or inhaled directly (by rubbing into palms of hands and breathing deeply) to enhance the mood.
Essential oils are distilled from various parts of plants including the roots, bark, leaves, stems, berries, seeds, flowers and fruit. Fragrance profiles range between sweet, citrus, lemony, woody, herbaceous and pungent. Below are my top picks for different oil categories and a few tips for how to use them.
Oils to calm and relax: Lavender is worthy of its very own distinguished category. There exist a plethora of lavender types with diverse fragrance profiles, which also change depending on cultivation region. Though volumes could be penned in it’s name, suffice it to say that this is the oil I always carry with me in my purse. Beyond its ability to immediately assist in relaxation of the mind and body, it can be applied directly to small cuts and scrapes for disinfection. It’s also a tried and true bubble bath addition. Blue tansy is a fruity sweet oil related to chamomile. It’s helpful in relieving stress, tension and irritability. Add a few drops to a carrier oil (such as almond, olive or jojoba) and rub into sore muscles.
Oils with antimicrobial properties: Eucalyptus, Tea tree, Ravintsara. These pungent oils are both antiviral and antibacterial. Add a few drops to an ounce of pure aloe vera gel for an alcohol-free hand sanitizer or to a load of laundry (after the water) for a fresh, clean scent.
Oils to promote sleep: Lavender, Chamomile and Clary sage. Add a few drops of each to a bath before bedtime to help wind down the mind and relax the body, or put a few drops in palms of hands and inhale deeply several times to promote a deep, restful slumber.
Essential oils should always be used with caution as some can cause irritation if applied directly to the skin. Always consult a health care professional before using them. It’s also important to choose pure oils of the highest possible quality. Purchase high quality oils in Benicia at Wellness Wisdom, www.wellnesswisdom.us, or online from local producers at www.snowlotus.org and www.simplers.com.