Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefit. "Aromatherapy has been used for centuries," says Gujral. "When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain."
Essential oils can also be absorbed by the skin. A massage therapist might add a drop or two of wintergreen to oil to help relax tight muscles during a rubdown. Or a skincare company may add lavender to bath salts to create a soothing soak.
Although people claim essential oils are natural remedies for a number of ailments, there's not enough research to determine their effectiveness in human health. Results of lab studies are promising — one at Johns Hopkins found that certain essential oils could kill a type of Lyme bacteria better than antibiotics — but results in human clinical trials are mixed.
Some studies indicate that there's a benefit to using essential oils while others show no improvement in symptoms. Clinical trials have looked at whether essential oils can alleviate conditions such as:
The quality of essential oils on the market varies greatly, from pure essential oils to those diluted with less expensive ingredients. And because there's no regulation, the label may not even list everything that's in the bottle you're buying. That's why Gujral says essential oils should not be ingested.
She also advises against using essential oil diffusers, small household appliances that create scented vapor. "Diffusion in a public area or household with multiple members can affect people differently," Gujral explains. "For example, peppermint is often recommended for headaches. But if you use it around a child who's less than 30 months old, the child can become agitated. It could have a negative effect." Additionally, someone with fast heartbeat can react adversely to peppermint.
The safest ways to use essential oils include:
A small number of people may experience irritation or allergic reactions to certain essential oils. You're more likely to have a bad reaction if you have atopic dermatitis or a history of reactions to topical products. Although you can experience a reaction to any essential oil, some are more likely to be problematic, including:
Because pure essential oils are potent, diluting them in a carrier oil is the best way to avoid a bad reaction when applying directly to the skin. If you get a red, itchy rash or hives after applying essential oils, see a doctor. You may be having an allergic reaction.
There are dozens of essential oils, all with different fragrances and chemical makeups. Which essential oils are best depends on what symptoms you're looking to ease or fragrances you prefer. Some of the most popular essential oils include:
The most important thing to consider when shopping for essential oils is product quality, says Gujral. But figuring out which oils are the best is challenging, since there's no government agency in the U.S. that provides a grading system or certification for essential oils. A big problem? Many companies claim their essential oils are "therapeutic grade," but that's just a marketing term.
"Unfortunately, there are lots of products you might find online or in stores that aren't harvested correctly or may have something in them that isn't listed on the label," warns Gujral.
Here are some tips to help you shop for pure essential oils:
Essential oils can lift your mood and make you feel good with just a whiff of their fragrance. For some people they may even help alleviate the symptoms of various conditions. For more information on how to incorporate them into a healthy lifestyle, consult an integrative medicine expert.
Read the full article here: Aromatherapy