Aromatherapy is about so much more than a nice scented oil. According to Amy Bonfield, Education Manager at Aromatherapy Associates, it’s nothing short of transformative. “The essential oils are fragrant compounds from aromatic plants and their purpose is to protect the plant from bacteria, viruses and other aggressors. When they’re extracted they can have similar benefits for us,” she says. “There are many different essential oils, all offering unique benefits, both physical and emotional, such as helping with insomnia, low energy levels, skin conditions, headaches, anxiety and hormonal imbalances.”
How does aromatherapy work?
Essential oils work via one of two pathways; the nose and respiratory system, and the skin. Firstly, smell and inhalation: “There is a direct link from the olfactory nerve (that detects smells) to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that influences our emotional responses. It’s also where we form, store and recall our memories,” explains Amy. “This is why some scents take us back to a certain memory or evoke a particular emotion.”
Secondly, skin: “Essential oils are highly lipophilic substances, which means they can penetrate deeply into the skin,” says Amy. “Different essential oils have different benefits. Rose, for example, is known to increase circulation and cell renewal, while having a brightening effect on the skin. Frankincense helps with firming and chamomile comforts and soothes the skin.”
What’s the most effective way to use aromatherapy oils?
One of the greatest things about aromatherapy is that it is so versatile. You can burn and diffuse oils, enjoy them in candle-form, massage a blend into your skin, add them to your bath, or sprinkle them onto your clothes or bed sheets. The Aromatherapy Associates Bath and Shower Oils can be massaged onto your chest before getting into the shower. When the heat of the shower hits the oil, it fills the entire bathroom with scent. We can attest it’s an excellent way to start the day.
How should I choose a scent or blend?
You can use single oils or a blend of complementary oils that have been selected because, together, they create a better outcome. But, while some oils are known for their specific benefits, Amy explains that much of aromatherapy is intuitive: “You should allow your sense of smell to guide you because it’s so closely linked to your intuition. Select blends that you feel drawn to.”
Beyond that, lavender can help prepare you for sleep, frankincense helps to calm a busy mind and improve focus, vetiver is deeply calming, citrus helps to boost energy, sage helps to support memory and mood, and bergamot can help reduce fatigue. A word of caution, however; essential oils can be very stimulating, so some are best avoided if you’re pregnant. Steer clear of basil, camphor, clary sage and oak moss (to name but a few). If you’re expecting, it’s best to research the oils or blends you intend to use first.