I'm taking a very brief and short course on aromatherapy.
How Does Aromatherapy Work?
Essential oils stimulates the powerful sense of smell. It is known that odors we smell have a significant impact on how we feel. In dealing with patients who have lost the sense of smell, doctors have found that a life without fragrance can lead to high incidence of psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression. We have the capability to distinguish 10,000 different smells. It is believed that smells enter through cilia (the fine hairs lining the nose) to the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls our moods, emotions, memory and learning.
Studies with brain wave frequency has shown that smelling lavender increases alpha waves in the back of the head, which are associated with relaxation. Fragrance of Jasmine increases beta waves in the front of the head, which are associated with a more alert state.
Scientific studies have also shown that essential oils contain chemical components that can exert specific effects on the mind and body. Their chemistry is complex, but generally includes alcohols, esters, ketones, aldehydes, and terpenes. The effect of these chemical components are summarized in the accompanying table.
Each essential oil contains as much as 100 chemical components, which together exert a strong effect on the whole person. Depending on which component is predominating in an oil, the oils act differently. For example, some oils are relaxing, some soothes you down, some relieves your pain, etc. Then there are oils such as lemon and lavender, which adapt to what your body needs, and adapt to that situation. (These are called "adaptogenic"). The mechanism in which these essential oils act on us is not very well understood. What is understood is that they affect our mind and emotions. They leave no harmful residues. They enter into the body either by absorption or inhalation.
A fragrance company in Japan conducted studies to determine the effects of smell on people. They have pumped different fragrances in an area where a number of keyboard entry operators were stationed and monitored the number of mistakes made as a function of the smell in the air. The results were as follows:
- When exposed to lavender oil fragrance (a relaxant), the keyboard typing errors dropped 20 percent.
- When exposed to jasmine (an uplifting fragrance), the errors dropped 33 percent
- When exposed to lemon fragrance (a sharp, refreshing stimulant), the mistakes fell by a whopping 54 percent!
Aromatherapy for Behavior
Considerable evidence exists that fragrant compounds and aromatherapy have a profound effect on our mind and behavior. Animal studies have found that hyperexcited mice (as a result of consuming a large quantity of caffeine) was calmed by the aroma of lavender, sandalwood, and other oils sprayed into their cages. The same mice were found to become very irritable when exposed to the aroma of orange terpines, thymol, and some other substances. These oils were all detected in their bloodstream after about an hour.
Aromatherapy for Sleep
In a study reported in the British Medical Journal Lancet, elderly patients slept "like babies" when a lavender aroma was wafted into their bedrooms at night. These patients had complained of difficulty falling asleep and had to take sleeping pills to get sleep prior to the aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy for Postpartum discomfort
In a double blind study, 635 women applied lavender oil to their perineal area (part of the body between the vagina and the rectum) after child birth. The women reported a distinct improvement between the third and fifth day. (The discomfort is the worst during this time for patients in the control group.)
Aromatherapy for Colds
It has been well established that chicken soup is good for cold (both historically and scientifically). Studies were conducted to find out whether the effect was due to the action of the hot steam on the lining of the nostrils or whether the aroma of the chicken soup has anything to do with it. The results indicated that chicken soup was more effective than the steam indicating the effectiveness of the aroma.
Aromatherapy for Stress
In a study conducted at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reported 63 percent less claustrophobic after getting exposed to the aroma of vanilla. There was no change in their heart rate. Obviously, the aroma reduced their anxiety probably by the pleasant memories evoked by the vanilla aroma or by some other physiological response.
In another study, 122 patients who were in an intensive care unit, reported feeling much better when aromatherapy was administered with the oil of lavender (compared to when they were simply given a massage or allowed to rest.) No changes in the patients who were given aromatherapy was observed in the blood pressure, respiration, or heart rate. As we mentioned before, Japanese have reported less mistakes by keypunch operators when exposed to fragrance.
Taken from: Holistic Online