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Understanding Pure Essential Oils

Essential Oils

Jayson Kroner

From just down the hall, the unmistakable hum of running water echoes out towards your front room. The lights are dim. The mood is serene and faultless. And despite your decision to burn unscented candles, a perfect wave of fragrance fills your lungs with every breath. Gradually, you feel yourself falling into a state of unimaginable relaxation. As you slip neck-deep into the balmy waters of your four-claw tub, you remind yourself to send a thank you card to the advisor at the health food store – not for her consistent wit and bright smiles. Rather, for introducing you to aromatherapy and the essential oils that have helped transform a lackluster night into one of absolute bliss.  

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding aromatherapy is that it's a new concept. This couldn't be more incorrect. The essential oils used in today's aromatherapy applications have been around for centuries. In fact, many played an integral role in some of the earliest known barter systems. Physical evidence suggests that ancient Egyptians were among the very first to trade oils such as cedarwood and cypress. Use of aromatic herbs among Chinese civilizations can be traced back to pre-biblical periods. Even the ancient Indian therapy known as Ayurvedic medicine used essential oils for massage, pressure point therapy and overall good health. Fast forwarding to modern day, the uses for essential oils are as wide ranged as the number of extracts available.

Perhaps the most popular is aromatherapy. By simple definition, aromatherapy is a gentle, non-invasive natural healing art that utilizes essential oils to promote general wellbeing. Its explosive popularity may be attributed to the fact that, of all five human senses, our sense of smell has the most direct route to the brain. Unlike other human senses, the olfactory nerves of the nasal cavity do not pass through the brain's 'switching station'. This allows aromas to pass directly to the region of the brain responsible for recalling memories, applying learned knowledge and processing emotional response.

But make no mistake -- the influence of aromatherapy is not limited to the brain. When we breathe in essential oils, not only are they absorbed by the nasal cavity, but by many other organs as well. Peppermint for example, is easily absorbed through both the lungs and bronchial tract. As a result, the essential oil emissions can pass into the circulatory system -- increasing the benefits and leaving the user feeling cool, refreshed and uplifted.

Our skin is also a very popular way to reap the benefits of essential oils. Incorporating these precious oils into massage therapy is one of the most effective ways to utilize their many various properties. Essential oil molecules are extremely small and can easily penetrate the skin where they become pliable and have the capacity to pass into the circulatory system. The use of essential oils in massage therapy also taps into our sense of smell, thus affecting the sensory regions of the brain as mentioned earlier.

Another popular way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils is by adding them to a bath. By adding just a few drops of essential oil to a warm bath, users are again treated to both the skin penetrating effects, as well as the aromatic scents. Many users regard this as one of the most effective ways to benefit from aromatherapy, simply because the steam produced from a bath opens pores and bronchial passages. This allows more of the essential extracts to pass through the layers of skin, and even more being inhaled as a result of taking deeper breaths.

Other popular methods include foot and hand baths, aromatic showers, sauna treatments, hot/cold compresses, direct application and gargles. They can also be added to shampoos, conditioners, lotions and body sprays. But regardless of which application you choose, keep in mind that the effects of each individual oil can vary from person to person. So before rushing into aromatherapy, take a little time to educate yourself on the many essential oils that are available, and what it is that you're hoping to accomplish. Someone interested in finding relaxation and more tranquil sleep would naturally want to avoid oils that invoke stimulation. In contrast, those seeking energy would not incorporate calming oils into their routines, and so on.

One of the most important things to remember is that essential oils are not all alike. While it's obvious that they all have their own unique scents, each one also has its own set of unique attributes. For example, some oils are extremely potent and must be diluted with carrier oils such as Jojoba, Grape Seed, Olive, Almond and others. Others may be perfectly safe to apply directly on the skin. And still others should only be used in diffusers. True, it can create a bit of confusion at first, but once you've developed some understanding of how essential oils work, the lifetime of benefits can clearly outweigh the short time it takes to familiarize oneself.

Aromatherapy for Everyone by PJ Pierson and Mary Shipley was released by Vital Health Publishing and is unquestionably one of the most informative tools available to anyone interested in discovering the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy. It provides a detailed history of essential oils, application techniques, fun facts, colour photos and detailed profiles/application methods on over 40 of the most popular oils available today. Look for it at health stores nationwide.

Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2006-2019. Published with permission. Jayson Kroner is a health and fitness journalist, a certified sports nutritionist, and co-author of the book '7-Syndrome Healing.'