I still remember an incident happened several years ago. One of my friends was hospitalized after a car accident. I could not visit him in the hospital. He was discharged from the hospital after a week and began to take rest at home since he could not walk properly. I decided to visit him and proceeded in my car. His house was on a hilly terrain about two kilometers from the main road.
The riding was very strenuous and even risky. The road was damaged and was full of ditches and stones. I was stressed and anxious about the dangerous ride. I even cursed myself for choosing the car for the journey. I could have hired a jeep, which would have been more proper. Somehow or other I managed to drive out of the difficult terrain of the road with minimum damages for the car and reached a coffee plantation where the coffee plants were in full blossom with bunches of white flowers. It was an amazing view. I stopped the car and got down and rushed to a coffee plant to smell the flowers. I inhaled the sweet fragrance of the flowers deep into my lungs.
Surprisingly my depressed mood suddenly changed. My frustration and tension evaporated within a few minutes. I really felt happy and joyful. The pleasant fragrance of the flowers was a great solace and feast to my mind and soul. When I met my friend I shared my amazing experience with him. When I returned after the visit I decided to learn more about the hidden powers of smell. Thus I started to learn seriously about aromatherapy and the wonderful and magical powers of smell.
It is the olfactory nerve that gives us sense of smell. This nerve sends signals instantaneously to several areas of our brain including the limbic system and amygdale which are related to emotions, mood and memory. This is the secret of the power of smell to influence our emotional responses and mood. Of our five senses, only the sense of smell has the direct link with limbic lobe of the brain which controls memory and emotions. It is understood that sense of smell can influence even the working of hormonal glands in the human body.
Nowadays aroma therapy is used for alleviating anxiety, mood disorders, depression, fear and anger. It is found that aromatherapy is highly helpful to solve several physiological, psychological and emotional problems. Theresa Molnar, the executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute, the research and education division of the Fragrance Foundation, authoritatively stated; ‘Scents can have a positive effect on mood, stress reduction, quality improvement on your sleep , self- confidence and physical and cognitive performance.
In aroma therapy, essential oils are used for either breathing their fragrance through your nose or for massaging your skin. Essential oils are produced from flowers, fruits, herbs and tree parts like bark, roots, peels etc. In addition incense candles and sticks are also used. Different types of essential oils are available today. Nowadays many people are using incent sticks and candles for making themselves relaxed and for alleviating their stress and tiredness.
History of aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is not a new practice. People were aware of the power of smell and used it for healing mood problems and anxiety from very old times. Theoprastus who was Aristotle’s colleague and successor, wrote about the effect of fragrance on the human mind in his book Concerning Odours. He gave a detailed description about the production of different perfumes and their medicinal effects. That is the oldest treatise on aromatherapy
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recommended this treatment by sying ; ‘The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.’ It was in 1910 that a French chemist, Maurice Gattefosse, discovered the medicinal value of the essential oil, lavender. In an unexpected explosion in his laboratory he had serious burns on his hands. He applied lavender oil on his burns since he had heard about the miraculous cure of injuries of those soldiers who participated in the World War II by merely applying this oil. He also had an amazing cure of his burns. So he started conducting lab experiments to find out the science behind the lavender cure. Finally he became a believer and practitioner of aromatherapy and tried to spread this all over the world. Dr. Jean Valnet, a medical doctor in Paris, who was a colleague of Gattefosse, published a classic book; The Practice of Aromatherapy
The English king Edward six and the queen Elizabeth1 was very fond of the scent of roses and they insisted to fill their rooms with the aroma of rose flowers. It was a belief from very ancient times that the scent of roses has hidden powers to induce love and lust in the human mind. The ancient Greek poet Sappho named rose as ‘the queen of all flowers’. Rose flower has been considered as the symbol of love.
The Roman emperor Nero used to sleep in a bed of rose petals. It is said that Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt deliberately arranged a bed of rose petals for Mark Antony for his sleep during his first visit to her palace and that changed history.
Commonly used essential oils and their healing powers
Lavender is the most widely used essential oil in aromatherapy. It is popularly known as the angel of purification. The aroma of lavender can calm your nerves and lower your blood pressure and heart rate. It has been found to help reduce anxiety and depression. When you inhale the scent of lavender you will feel happy. Lavender oil is used to alleviate head ache, cough and insomnia. In addition, it has got antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
This is known as royal oil. It is used for reducing depression, anxiety, and stress. Memory, concentration, grasping power and learning ability can be improved by inhaling the fragrance of basil oil.
Jasmine essential oil is manufactured from the essence of jasmine flowers. If you smell fresh jasmine flowers directly that will help you to relieve your stress and relax your mind.
It has been found that the aroma of rosemary can reduce your cortisol levels and alleviate your stress. University of Northumbia researchers found that the chemical 1.8 cineole in rosemary essential oil helped enhance the ability to understand and learn. It has been widely used from ancient times for improving memory power.
Japanese researchers have found that fragrance of lemon can sooth your mind and relieve your stress. It can also lower your heartbeat rate.
It is a popular essential oil widely used in perfumes. It is a traditional remedy for sore throat and cough. Queen Elizabeth1 was well-known for her love of sandal wood perfume. She regularly used it. The aroma of sandal wood strengthens the nervous system and dispels tension, stress and insomnia. It can increase concentration and induce relaxation to your body and mind.
A study conducted at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital found that the scent of vanilla could reduce stress related claustrophobia by 63%during MRI scan.
Smell of rose and jasmine flowers or their essential oils are effective aphrodisiacs. The scents of jasmine and rosemary are found to stimulate the brain when inhaled.
In this process the entire body is massaged with essential oils, diluted with base oil. The molecules of essential oil enter the body through the skin and also through smell and they reach the brain.
Ways of using essential oils
Essential oils can be used in different ways. A few drops of specified essential oil can be spread over a handkerchief and inhale the fragrance through nose.
You can add a few drops of essential oil to boiling water and inhale the steam.
Essential oil candles or incense sticks can be burnt for inhaling the scents. Essential oil spray is also available.
Gadgets for aromatherapy
This can be used to spread the aroma of essential oil in the room
Air refresher/Room spray
The aroma of essential oil can be easily spread all over the room by using room spray or air refresher
Aftershave lotion prepared by adding essential oils are used for skin beauty and for lifting mood.
Bathing soap manufactured with essential oils like sandalwood, lemon, lavender, jasmine etc can be used for improving our mood as well as skin beauty.
Smell phones, fragrance jewellery, scented earrings etc are also available for aromatherapy use.
The famous American biologist Rachel Carson reminds us by saying; ‘For the sense of smell almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that you use it so little.’ According to Robert Tisserand, one of the pioneers of aromatherapy; ‘Aromatherapy is caring, hand on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul.’