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Posted in Essential Oil Basics by Rocky Mountain Oils

What Is Aromatherapy?

Within the essential oil world, odds are you've heard the term 'aromatherapy' before, and while this term may seem fairly self-explanatory and simple, there may be more parts to it than you know. In this post, we are going to take a look at what aromatherapy is, how it works, and why you should try it. 

What is Aromatherapy? 

Aromatherapy is a natural and holistic healing process that uses naturally extracted plant oils (a.k.a. essentials oils) to harmonize, balance, and promote the health of your mind, body, and spirit. By using essential oils, aromatherapy strives to enhance your body's natural healing process to improve your overall physical health while also balancing your emotions and restoring an inner connection to yourself. 

How Does Aromatherapy Work? 

With a name like 'aromatherapy', you may guess that aromatherapy works through your sense of smell...and you would be correct! Your sense of smell is extremely powerful, and it can elicit strong reactions, both emotionally and physically. Take a look at the infographic and its corresponding points below for a brief overview of how your sense of smell works: 

  1. The inner part of your nose is lined with hundreds of olfactory epithelial cells, each of which have cilia (hair-like structures). Each cilia works like a lock-and-key system: specific odor molecules bind to the corresponding receptors in the olfactory epithelial cells and unlock a signal. 
  2. The signal that the odor molecules trigger travel up to the brain, specifically to the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb then relays the signal to other parts of the brain for processing. Some of these areas include the: 
    1. Thalamus: The thalamus is a cerebral structure that helps relay all sensory information that comes into the brain. It can send the smell information to several different areas. 
    2. Amygdala: This part of the brain stores and releases emotional trauma, and it is only triggered by scent. The amygdala processes smell signals that come to the brain. 
    3. Limbic system: Your limbic system is physically close to your olfactory system (the sensory system that processes smell) within the brain. It is responsible for triggering your survival responses, storing long-term memory, regulating heart rate and blood pressure, controlling emotions, directing your attention, and more. 
  3. As the different parts of your brain process the odor signals, they can trigger different responses, many of which involve releasing hormones. Depending on the signal and which hormones are released, you can experience greater calmness, more energy, the recollection of certain memories, and more. 

How Essential Oils Work In Aromatherapy

Essential oils have certain aromatic properties. When you inhale the aroma of an essential oil, your brain processes the smell as it would with any other smell; however, the oil's aroma can trigger various specific responses because of its certain chemical makeup. Here are just a few examples of the reactions you may experience when inhaling certain essential oil aromas: 

  • Mint oils have alcohol and ketones, which help stimulate greater energy and calmness. 
  • Herbal and grass oils contain phenols to help promote feelings of comfort and soothing. 
  • Citrus oils have monoterpenes, which help uplift and revitalize your spirits. 
  • Tree and wood oils contain alcohols to ground and balance your emotions. 
  • Floral oils have esters, which help promote feelings of calmness and reassurance. 
  • Spice oils contain both esters and ethers, which can be intriguing and bring feelings of renewal. 

Single essential oils can evoke powerful responses; however, as with most things, the power of combining oils and having them work together can be even greater. When you combine oils into a blend, you can inhale several different aromas that will each trigger its own response. This means that you could address an array of emotions or issues at once with a blend of oils instead of just one. 

Why Practice Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a time-tested practice that has helped people become healthier and more balanced in a natural way. There are a lot of medications out there for all sorts of conditions, but if natural products and essential oils can give you the same result or better, why not try it? We understand that there are situations where medications are essential and do provide the benefits and results you need. Aromatherapy is simply a natural and complementary way that you can boost your body's natural healing process and inspire balanced emotions. 

In many cases, people choose to couple aromatherapy with other natural treatments and practices. Some of these include acupuncture and massage, in addition to traditional medical treatments. 

How to Experience Aromatherapy

You don't have to go to a specialist to experience the benefits of aromatherapy. You can simply diffuse essential oils at home or work. You can inhale the aromas via an aromatherapy inhaler, directly from the bottle, or from a piece of aromatherapy jewelry. If you experience localized muscle tension or discomfort, you can also apply essential oils topically to experience their benefits; both their aroma and their therapeutic components that are absorbed into the bloodstream will trigger a response within your body and brain. 

Whether you are looking to improve your health, loosen up some tight muscles, improve your mood, boost your energy improve brain function, or anything else, aromatherapy can be a natural way to help make that happen.