Every time someone lights a scented candle or sinks into a tub filled with lavender bath beads they are practicing aromatherapy, and they’re probably completely unaware of how and why certain scents help them feel more relaxed, happy, or sleepy. Using scents to create different moods or alleviate certain physical complaints is nothing new. The science of using scented oils to enhance mood, encourage sleep, and help heal medical conditions dates back to ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
But why do aromas impact us in such a way? Our emotions, moods, and memory are very closely tied to our sense of smell, and this means that the use of specific scents can be very beneficial for stimulating positive emotional responses. Because our emotional state can have a profound effect on our physical health, elevating our moods through scent in turn can improve our physical well-being.
Aromatherapy is a natural, holistic medical system that seeks to help heal the body by using essential oils to encourage the mind, body, and spirit to work together to restore balance. Those who practice aromatherapy believe that the body naturally heals itself when it is in balance. By creating overall wellness through the use of these scented essential oils, which work on the mind and body simultaneously, disease can be prevented as well as treated when it does appear.
There are hundreds of essential oils used in aromatherapy treatments. Beginners can get overwhelmed, especially if they’re seeking relief from simple, everyday problems like insomnia and stress. The following are some of the most basic treatments for stress, anxiety, and depression. For those looking to get more involved in the use of aromatherapy, there are professional practitioners who can offer further guidance.
Lavender has been shown to help people relax and encourages sleep. One study done on elderly residents of a nursing home found that pumping the scent of lavender into their rooms showed significant improvement in sleep. Skin preparations using lavender can also be used to relieve the pain and facilitate the healing of skin problems such as burns and wounds.
Sage can be used to alleviate pain. It can also help to ward off infections. People who are looking for relaxation and relief from muscle aches or suffer from insomnia might try sage.
Vanilla has a warmth to it that makes it useful for people experiencing sadness. It has a calming effect that helps relieve feelings of stress and depression.
Ginger is invigorating, and can be used to pep up the senses and increase mental focus. It is useful for those experiencing exhaustion, and calms the nerves.
Ylang ylang has natural antidepressant effects and encourages relaxation. It works as a muscle relaxant as well, adding to its stress-relieving qualities.
Rosemary can be used to energize the senses and stimulate mental focus. A general stimulant, rosemary is beneficial to the immune system as well, and can be used as a remedy for digestive discomfort, tension, and muscle pain.
Essential oils derived from these plants can be obtained from health food stores. If you are experiencing severe depression, anxiety, or pain, see a physician, as these may be symptoms of a larger problem. For general wellness, though, aromatherapy is a good way to soothe and stimulate the senses as well as the major regulatory systems of the body, and can help create an overall sense of balance.