There’s a perception that aromatherapy is just about beautiful smells, diffusers and bath oils – although that is part of it, there is so much more to these ancient plant materials.
Aromatherapy is the use of concentrated oils (essential oils) obtained from aromatic plants and used for healing purposes. Aromatic plants are plants that have a distinct smell in at least one part of the plant. They have been used for thousands of years for cooking, medicine and during sacred ceremonies and rituals. The extracts taken from aromatic plants for aromatherapy are essential oils.
There is an increasing number of studies that support the health benefits of essential oils and the positive effects they have on our body, supporting us both physiologically and psychologically.
Essential oils can enter the body in several ways; the nose, the digestive system (only when prescribed by a medical herbalist or aromatherapist) and through the skin. The quickest way for an essential oil to enter the system is through the nose. Deep within the nasal cavity lies the olfactory system which consists of millions of olfactory receptors. The olfactory system functions to process sensory information related to smell through its connection to the limbic system. The limbic system is one of the most ancient parts of the brain which is responsible for many of our basic needs; regulating emotion, memory, fight or flight response, hunger, satiety and more. It interprets smells and aromas as feelings and memories, triggering certain events and emotions from our life.
Have you ever had the experience of inhaling an aroma and automatically being transported to a time and place? That’s the olfactory and limbic system working together! Essential oils may evoke a positive or negative effect on a person – so it’s important to always choose carefully and mindfully so to get the right response.
As we enter winter, our days are filled with more dark than light, it’s cold and damp & these changes can begin to affect our mood, energy levels, our bodies, immune and overall wellbeing. Essential oils are a great support to keep our body’s healthy, uplifted and energised during this season. Here are our top 5 faves …
Official Name: Zingiber officinale (Spicy, pungent, warm & sweet.)
Ginger is a warming and stimulating oil. Its spicy aroma is great when you’re feeling a slump in energy & need a quick pick me up.
A circulatory stimulant, it’s hot invigorating nature makes ginger a powerful rubefacient and great for the treatment of poor circulation resulting in cold hands and feet. It also stimulates and warms the digestive system, therefore a great oil for poor digestion, bloating, abdominal distention and flatulence. It can also be used to treat and relieve nausea, especially when caused by travel or morning sickness. During the cold weather, our muscles can often become stiff, contracted and painful, using ginger can help to warm and soothe the muscles, also helping with rheumatism and arthritis. Ginger can also support you if you’re suffering from a cough, sore throat or any kind of catarrhal conditions.
Official Name: Piper nigrum (Dry-woody, warm & spicy.)
Black pepper is a warm, spicy oil that great to wake us up in the morning! It’s warming and stimulating quality can help to dispel any cold pathology within the body, particularly poor digestion. Known and used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for it’s carminative, warming and eliminative properties.
Black pepper has similar actions to Ginger. A great oil to support the circulatory system, its warming quality makes it a great recommendation for chilblains and warming the hands and feet. It’s stomachic, antispasmodic and carminative properties help in the treatment of digestive disorders including constipation, dyspepsia flatulence and loss of appetite. Similarly to Ginger, Black Pepper can relieve tired and aching limbs, muscular aches and pains and arthritis which becomes more painful in colder months.
Black pepper can help us ‘get a move on’, it promotes strength, stamina and motivation.
Official Name: Rosmarinus officinalis (Strong, fresh, warming, camphoraceous, balsamic & slightly woody.)
Rosemary is one of the most invigorating oils – an excellent tonic to the lungs, muscles and nervous system. It’s strong expectorant action makes it useful for catarrhal conditions and respiratory ailments. It’s analgesic actions are suited in treating musculoskeletal issues such as rheumatism, arthritis and tired, stiff, overworked muscles.
Rosemary is a very powerful oil for poor concentration. It has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and is reputed to be a brain stimulant assisting with poor memory, focus and nervous debility. It is associated with clear thoughts and helpful when we need a little more clarity.
Official Name: Citrus sinensis (Warm, fresh, citrus & sweet.)
Sweet orange is a refreshing, cheerful oil that gives a warming and joyful energy. It has a calming effect on the nervous system, helping with depression, anxiety, nervousness and insomnia. The sweet, sunny smell can uplift the dark days we can experience during the winter months. Blend with similarly relaxing oils such as lavender, neroli and frankincense.
Sweet orange can help to settle the digestive system, it’s antispasmodic properties eases spasms and relieves cramps – useful in treating constipation, flatulence and IBS.
Children love the sweet fresh smell of oranges and other citrus oils too. It can help to soothe them, help them sleep and relieve tummy upsets.
Like all citrus oils, orange promotes balance, positivity and harmony. It’s an oil that can help us to take a more relaxed approach, easing situations and creating a more ‘easy-going’ approach.
Official Name: Ocimum basilicum (Warming, sweet, spicy, fresh balsamic and woody.)
Sweet basil, is a warming oil which unifies and uplifts the spirit. Sweet basil is considered to be one of the most powerful and finest remedies for the brain. It holds a strong reputation for clearing the head, relieving fatigue and giving strength and clarity to the mind. It can be used to support nervous disorders such as indecision, excessive or uncontrollable emotion, mental and physical exhaustion and depression. A useful oil for times when there has been a change in life that result in feelings of vulnerability and for nervous exhaustion.
A great oil for supporting the immune system during these winter months. It has sudorific properties – which causes sweating to increase detoxification and supports colds and fevers. Its has a beneficial action on the respiratory system, relieving sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, flu and coughs.
It’s uplifting, awakening, clarifying and stimulating aroma is complemented by its calming and restorative quality, making it a great oil to use in the morning on days that feel a little dull and gloomy. It will give you the energy you need to get through the day but with a calming softness.
words by Alex Bottomley (ITHMA) Aromatherapist and founder of Eucalyptus www.eucalyptus.space @eucalyptusmargate
To learn more about Aromatherapy join Alex on her 4-week online course. Beginners Guide to Aromatherapy with 10% OFF with code: HIPANDHEALTHY10