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AROMA THERAPY: GET THE WHIFF

Did you ever know that unlike the nerves of other senses, olfactory nerves, the nerves transmitting aroma to the brain, are directly connected to the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus has control over the endocrine system, which regulates hormones affecting growth and unconscious activities that maintain life such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, body temperature and hunger. 

The deal and its rationale: The origin of aroma therapy can be traced back to one of the most ancient healing practices. The aroma of oils extracted from various herbs and plants, referred as essential plants, brings the mind and the body into the state of equilibrium, which helps healing various disorders–mental or physical. The essential plant oils are derived from various flowers, fruits, trees, herbs and resins. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated volatile substances. Some of them exhibit hormone like properties and contain vitamins, minerals and natural antiseptics. Essential oils can be used to treat a myriad of illnesses such as depression, stress, arthritis, back problems, muscle aches, headaches, colds, sinus problems, skin disorders, asthma, insomnia, metabolism, digest problems etc.  The earliest recorded history of aroma therapy dates back to around 2890 BC, where the ancient Egyptians used aromatic substances for religious and medicinal purposes. The Chinese (around 2000 BC) used essential oils in acupuncture, massage, baths, and inhalations. The first modern study on aroma therapy was done by French chemist Gattefosse, whose work showed that the essential oils can very easily penetrate the skin and mingle with our body's extra-cellular liquids like blood. The circulation of these body fluids then carries the oils to the different organs. The study showed that even smelling these oils stimulate the brain's limbic system via the olfactory nerve and alters our emotional and mental behavior.

Try these–

Using oils in baths is a simple, effective and pleasant way to relax and receive the therapeutic effects. Water itself has therapeutic value, which enhances the power of the oils. Add 6 to 10 drops of essential oil, or a blend, to the surface of the water in the bathtub. Don’t add other substances like foam or your regular bath oil and immerse your body for about 20 minutes. The heat of the water aids absorption through the skin, whilst you inhale the vapour. Reduce the amount of oils used in baths for babies.

For minor injuries or pain, add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to 100 ml of warm water then soak a piece of clean cotton in the water. Wring out the excess water and place the cloth on the affected part of the body. 

Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil into a bowl of steaming water, then place a towel over your head and the bowl, and inhale the vapour for a few minutes. You can also purchase steamers made especially for aroma therapy. 

Massage is perhaps the most effective method of using essential oils, combining their properties with the therapeutic power of touch. The oils diluted to 5% in carrier oil or base oil, are massaged into and absorbed by the skin. They are put into the blood stream and sent to the relevant parts of the body quickly and effectively. 

You can also make your distinctive and personal perfume by blending different oils with unscented alcohol or carrier oil. Apply, as you would normally use perfume. 

Essential oils evaporate easily and create distinct mental and emotional atmospheres, they make excellent air fresheners. There are several ways to vaporize oils effectively–from a store bought vapouriser or a potpourri burner to placing a few drops of the oils in simmering pot of water on a stove top or radiator.

Watch Out: Selection of essential oils suiting your requirement is crucial to aroma therapy and this is where you require the help and guidance of an aroma therapist. Most of essential oils though, do not have any negative effect, and thus can be used as effective home remedies–just as your Grandma has been doing since long. 

Catch the whiff – 

Basil – A wonderful herb, Basil has a spicy aroma, which resembles that of clove. Its oil is obtained by distillation of leaves and helps in whooping cough, colds, bronchitis, indigestion and during scanty menstrual periods. Basil’s aroma is also effective in curing sleeplessness, nervous tension, hysteria and mental fatigue. One should, however, avoid using this herb in case of pregnancy and sensitive skin. 

Lavender – Regarded as one of the most versatile essential oils, it is extracted from distillation of the flowering tops of a lavender plant. Lavender’s essential oil has slight yellow colour and is used for curing asthma, bronchitis, regular coughs and colds, high blood pressure, pre-menstrual syndrome etc. Lavender’s oil is also used as a relaxant for insomnia, nervous tension and other types of depression.

Cedar wood – Essential oil of cedar wood is obtained by distilling its saw dust and wood savings. It helps in improving oily skin, acne, scalp disorders etc. It is better to avoid using cedar wood oil during pregnancy and in case of sensitive skin.

Eucalyptuses – Pluck some leaves out of Eucalyptus that grows in your neighbourhood and feel the aroma. Its essence is obtained by steam distillation of the leaves and helps in coughs, colds, bronchitis and even in fever. Put some essence in warm water and inhale the vapour in case of cold or heavy headedness. You will feel the difference in no time. 

Coriander – A widely used spice in India, the charisma of coriander was known even during the ancient days. Its colourless essence with slightly sweet but pungent aroma is obtained by steam distillation of coriander fruit. Coriander oil helps rejuvenate the nervous system, reduces rheumatic pains and improves appetite. Coriander is also known as an aphrodisiac and is used in baths, massages and inhalation. 

Lemon – Everyone is familiar with the fresh and invigorating aroma of lemons.  Its essential oil is extracted by crushing the peels of the fruit. Oil of lemon helps in acidity, arthritis, anemia and cough and colds. It helps improve appetite and reduces pain if applied on the spot of an insect bite. One should take note that essential oil of lemon may cause skin pigmentation if exposed to sun.  

Orange – A fruit of the lemon clan, orange tree yields a variety of essential oils, which are extracted from its fruits, its leaves and its shoots. These oils are mainly used for ailments like bronchitis, colds and skin care. One should avoid going in sun after putting essential oil of orange as any exposure to sun may cause skin pigmentation.

Rosemary – When a whole plant of Rosemary goes through the process of steam distillation, its essential oil is obtained. Rosemary’s essential oil is found extremely effective in arthritis, bronchitis, burns, colds, dandruff and skin care. Rosemary’s aroma has a placid effect on the nervous system and brings clarity of thought. As a matter of caution, avoid its use during the first trimester of
pregnancy. 

 
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