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3 min read

The word 'aromatherapy' literally means therapy through aroma, without specifying the source of the aroma. But, aromatherapy in practice are only essential oils, and no other form of aroma. Its richness is that it has so many aspects, which are complimentary to each other, and which may also overlap, but which are nevertheless distinct. Aromatherapy is a truly holistic therapy, taking account of the mind, body and spirit of the person seeking help, as well as their lifestyle, relationships etc. Let us understand how essential oils work on our body.

The routes through which essential oils react with the body and its metabolism are called pathways. In the first phase, essential oils penetrate the epithelial tissues; these include the skin, nasal passages, bronchioles, lungs and gastro-intestinal tract.

Once absorbed into the surface layer, essential oils quickly penetrate into the lymphatic and blood capillary systems, entering into the general circulation. This is true for the other epithelial tissues of the body, including sinuses and lungs. The essential oils in the lymph circulatory system can be carried directly to the liver or fed into the blood stream. As the oils circulate with the blood, body tissues and organs may choose any portion of the essential oil that it wishes to utilise in its metabolic processes, or simply receive the stimulation, sedation, or beneficial property of the oil as it passes through. It is important to remember that nothing stays in the body very long (consider the hundreds of pounds of food and drink that we consume on a monthly basis). Essential oil, because of their volatile nature, usually leave the body within 48 hours.

 The most important pathway, in terms of its profound effect on the body, is through the sense of smell. When we smell essential oils, the vapor stimulates small hair-like extensions of our olfactory nerve. The olfactory nerve is the only nerve in the body that directly contracts the external environment and goes all the way to the brain. All of our  other senses (touch, hearing, sight and taste) involve several nerves and synaptic junctions before the impulses reach the brain. The olfactory nerve stimulates the most primitive  part of the brain known as the limbic system, also called the saurian or reptilian brain. This is important in the processing of and reaction to emotions, desire, appetites and memories. This direct connection is why essential oils can have such profound and immediate effects on very deep aspects of our beingness. Research indicates that very small quantities create this stimulation. Larger doses do not increase the response appreciably.

The third stage of the pathways involves the elimination process. Some components of essential oils are picked up by the surface of the lungs and are outgassed as a vapour. Eucalyptol (an alcohol in eucalyptus oil) is transported to the lung surfaces by the blood stream and calms the mucous membranes as it exits. Others, such as the terpenes in juniper berry oil, are filtered out by the kidneys, and have a stimulating effect on the renal tissue, ureters, bladder and urethra as they exit. Some components of the essential oils are extracted by the liver, held briefly in the gall bladder, and dumped into the GI tract, having profound effects on these organ system as they pass through. Rose oil stimulates bile production as it is processed by the liver. Some constituents tend to migrate toward the skin where they will exit via the sebaceous glands and become part of the protective acid mantle (coating). Soap is damaging to the skin because its alkalinity removes the acid mantle. People who understand cosmetics use PH balanced products that won't strip and expose the skin to dryness and infection. The essential oils that move through this pathway are added to our protective layer. Research has shown that when they are applied to the skin or inhaled, essential oils are absorbed into the blood stream and metabolized in the body, similar to other substances. Many essential oil possess significant antimicrobial properties, in both liquid and vapor form. Clinical trials have shown that tea tree oil is highly effective in treating thrush. Another study has shown that aromatherapy massage with Lavender oil was significantly more effective than both plain oil massage and a control group, in reducing heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and pain in patients in a hospital intensive care unit. There are many studies that demonstrate how essential oils can positively affect mood and sense of well being.

There are strong research evidences which point out that fragrance compound really are resorbed and are able to cross the blood brain barrier. After 15 minutes of inhalation of a certain fragrance compound it could be detected in the blood and in the context of test animals, by GC-spectroscopic mode.

Now that you understand how essential oils work, go on grab yours now!!!


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