Started With Aromatherapy - Easy Ways To Enjoy Essential
Beginning 'bona fide' aromatherapy, beyond burning
a scented candle or soaking with a pleasing pre-packaged
bath salt blend, can be a little daunting to many
people. All those little bottles of pricey liquids,
electric contraptions, and fancy-sounding blends -
how does one actually use essential oils to improve
their health, happiness and well-being? It's easier
than one might think - getting started can open a
whole new world of fun and effective natural remedies
that can lift your mood, calm your nerves, and support
healing of a great many common ailments.
The basics of aromatherapy are simple, once a few
fundamental concepts are understood. Aromatherapy
is the practice of using essential oils - the aromatic
compounds of plants, extracted through steam distillation
or other methods. The oils act as the chemical messengers
and protectors of the plant kingdom. Each essential
oil can contain hundreds of different 'volatile' (easily
evaporated) compounds, most of which are very compatible
with the physiology of the human body. What's so wonderful
is they can also do for us what they do for plants
- act as chemical messengers through affecting our
smell sense and limbic system, and defending the body
against foreign invaders by their anti-bacterial and
anti-viral actions. In this article, we'll focus on
the mental and emotional effects of aromatherapy,
and address the physiological aspects at another time.
Essential oils are best used in one of two simple
ways: through inhalation, where the oils can directly
affect certain areas of the brain, and through topical
application, where the oils are easily absorbed into
the bloodstream. (Note: Oral ingestion can be an option,
but only under experienced medical supervision - further,
SOME OILS CAN BE TOXIC, and other even seemingly harmless
oils should not be used under certain conditions.
If you are pregnant, or have specific medical needs,
consult a knowledgeable practitioner before continuing!)
Inhalation of Essential Oils
Essential oils when inhaled directly effect our limbic
system, the brain's emotional centers. Many oils have
been found to sharpen concentration, reduce tension
and anxiety, and even reduce depression. How can we
reap these magnificent benefits? There are a few simple,
cost-effective ways to prepare essential oils for
inhalation - and experience these wonderful effects:
the 'handkerchief method', making your own 'smelling
salts', and making your own aromatherapy 'mister'.
The handkerchief method is pretty straightforward
- put a drop or two of an oil or blend on a tissue
and inhale (careful with some oils though - peppermint,
for example, can burn the sensitive skin around your
nostrils if put in direct contact). You can even leave
the tissue (or 'handkerchief, or piece of cloth, or
cotton, or whatever) in a room or your workspace and
the oil will continue to evaporate and have its effects.
Making your own 'smelling salts' is similar, though
your preparation will last a while longer. To make
the salts, fill a small vial (dark glass with a good
cap is best) with natural sea salt and drop essential
oils into the salt. The amount of oil is not too critical
- enough that there is detectable aroma, and not so
much that the salt gets completely wet. Just unscrew
the cap and inhale from the bottle whenever you need
a lift, or, like the handkerchief, leave the vial
open in your space, letting the aroma slowly fill
A 'mister' can be used infuse a room with aroma -
just add essential oils to water in a small spray
bottle, shake (before each use) and spray!
Here are a few easy recipes for the inhalation method
(Note: in all recipes, the number of drops of oil
and/or amount of carrier can be used as a ratio, which
you can increase or decrease as you need):
For uplifting the mood and brightening the mind -
4 drops of Rosemary Cineol, 3 drops of Lavender, 2
drops of Lemon and 1 drop of Peppermint, OR 3 drops
Clary Sage, 2 drops Bergamot and 1 drop Sweet Orange.
For calming anxiety - equal parts of Roman Chamomile,
Bergamot and Orange, OR 3 drops Lavender, 2 drops
Neroli and 1 drop Bergamot.
For creating a harmonious atmosphere - 3 drops Jasmine,
1 drop Ylang Ylang and 1 drop Sandalwood, OR equal
parts Geranium, Patchouli and Bergamot.
Now for the topical application method. Usually this
is described as aromatherapy massage - ideally, this
is done with a partner, but self-massage will work
as well. Creating your own massage oil is a straightforward
process - just dilute 10 - 20 drops of essential oil
per ounce of carrier oil. There are a variety of carrier
oils available, though Sweet Almond is a great all-around
oil and is recommended for general aromatherapy massage.
As for the massage, itself, any technique will do
- let your intuition be your guide. When you wish
to get a little more advanced, do a little further
research to create synergy with certain essential
oils and certain acupressure points.
The same blends for inhalation can be used for massage,
though here are a few more fun recipes:
For a sensual massage, per ounce of carrier oil, add
- 8 drops Sandalwood, 6 drops Rose, 4 drops Lavender
and 2 drops Ylang Ylang.
For opening the heart, try 4 drops Spikenard, 4 drops
Lavender and 2 drops of Rose.
Finally, for sheer relaxation, use 6 drops Lavender,
4 drops Neroli and 2 drops Bergamot.
Don't be afraid to create your own blends! You will
certainly find particular oils that you enjoy - and
aromatherapy is like that. It is the oils you find
most enjoyable that are likely those that are most
effective for you. My only recommendation is to change
the ratios of oils you are blending very slowly. Start
with one drop of each oil in a small vial, mixing
them and allowing a few minutes for them to blend
before adding more oil 1 drop at a time. In general,
citrus oils ( Orange, Bergamot, Lemon, Lime) tend
to bring alertness while calming at the same time.
Herb oils (Peppermint, Rosemary) tend to be invigorating,
while floral oils tend to be relaxing (Lavender, Chamomile,
Jasmine, Neroli). This is only a guideline - many
oils have complex properties and will affect individuals
differently - use your nose as a guide.
Getting started with aromatherapy is easy, and with
these simple ideas, you will be able to create essential
oil preparations tailored to your needs and enjoyment.
This can lead to a lifelong appreciation of these
wonderful gifts from nature.
Rae Cech, ND, is a naturopath and yoga teacher practicing
in Boulder, Colorado. She regularly employs essential
oils, flower essences, and other natural therapy modalities
with her clients. She is the owner of http://www.anandaapothecary.com