How Essential Oils Are Used For Aromatherapy
Have you ever been feeling a little down or tired and happen to inhale a pleasant fragrance that seems to lift you spirits or energize you almost immediately? This can be described as an aromatherapy effect. Now imagine that instead of a random occurrence your moods and overall feeling of well-being can be adjusted; the use of certain fragrances may specifically target the root cause of your feeling unbalanced.
This is the practice of aromatherapy; the use of plant oils, including essential oils, to bring about a positive change in a person’s psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapy is also referred to as essential oil therapy in some circles, clearly because of the dependence on the use of essential oils in the practice.
Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used by several cultures for thousands of years. They were used for medicinal purposes, health purposes, cosmetic purposes, and in religious rituals. Today, there is debate about their effectiveness for medicinal purposes, but there is no doubt about the feeling of well-being that they promote, and they are increasingly being used in beauty care products.
Essential oils are extracted from one or several parts of a plant including flowers, bark, stems, leaves, root, peel, or seeds. The oils are extracted in three main ways – distillation, expression, or extraction. In the distillation process, the required part of the plant is placed in a beaker-like container called an alembic, which is placed over water and the water heated. The resulting steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing its compounds. The vapors pass through a coil where it condenses back to a liquid which is then collected.
The expression process involves pressing the plant matter to remove the oils. For plants that won’t withstand distillation or expression, a process of using solvents to remove the oils is used. The resulting product of any of these methods is a concentrate and this concentrate may have to be diluted in the aromatherapy process.
How Are They Used?
In aromatherapy, essential oils are used in two ways – they are either inhaled or they are applied to the body. The effect of inhaling the oils has an almost instantaneous effect as it triggers the brain to a response specific the oils being used.
The inhalation method also goes straight to the respiratory system and can have therapeutic effects there – for example, using eucalyptus oil to clear congestion. Diffusers are commonly used to disperse the fragrance from the essential oil into the air.
When applied to the skin, the essential oils enter the bloodstream and, in addition to the inhalation effects, there are the cosmetic effects and possible health effects from using this method. It is important to note that essential oils are never applied to the skin in their concentrated forms. They are usually diluted in vegetable-based oils called carrier oils. Grapeseed and almond oils are popular carrier oils.