since the dawn of time humans have relied on plants for healing. Just as our very survival is inextricably linked to the plant kingdom, the keys to our optimal health and wellness are held by it as well.
Aromatherapy is an ethereal, refined practice with roots in botany, shamanism and other plant-based healing modalities. With a multitude of chemical constituents that — when inhaled, reach our limbic system and all 5 regions of the brain — aromatherapy touches us on both conscious and subconscious levels that impact our moods, memories and overall sense of wellbeing.
Methods of Application
Essential oils can be dispersed in many ways, including diffusion into the air, application onto the skin with oil or a compress; an inhaler and even consumed in teas and tinctures. Choose your mode of application depending on need; the quickest way into the bloodstream is via inhalation, so this is best for mood boosters and respiratory issues, but for skin soothing remedies a balm or oil is best. Always consult with a certified aromatherapist before considering consuming essential oils, as some can be quite hazardous.
Aromatherapy can work on an energetic level, for mood and energy enhancements, or a remedy level, for botanical healing to help with insomnia, pain, infections, nausea, respiratory issues and many other maladies.
THE SCIENCE OF AROMATHERAPY
Aromatherapy is part art, part science. The science is the alchemical nature of essences; extracted from botanicals and full of chemical constituents, these oils intertwine with our own chemistry to induce feelings of pleasure, energy, grounding and healing on a physical level.
Firstly, we know the chemical constituents in plants are harvested to make modern day western medicine, so there’s no disagreement that plants contain chemical compounds that produce healing in humans.
While modern medicine is a mere 100 years old, plant-based medicine is as old as time. Aromatherapy has deep origins, from thousands of years old botanists, shamans and healers. The alchemical results of consuming and absorbing plant constituents has been proven by the test of time, as it’s been used for thousands of years and is still used today throughout the world.
But as with anything borne of nature, there’s an inexactness that takes it from the realm of pure science; essences are impacted by the terroir from which they’re grown, the elevation, the time of day they are picked, the weather that particular season. So a “Lavender” oil may be one of many things, depending from where it’s grown and harvested, how it’s distilled, and how long ago. Thus the aromatherapist is working with organic elements that are ever changing; a perfume created one day may not be duplicated on another. The overall impression may be the same, but nuances change with each application.
Additionally, as people we vary in our responses to scent and thus aromatherapy is a personal art. By considering the whole person - their goals and other healing practices - the aromatherapist can design blends that support the person in their entirety.
To prove the efficacy of aromatherapy by today’s scientific standards has 3 key barriers, none causing poor reflection on aromatherapy but are simply the nature of the art:
- The scientific process includes “double blind” tests that use a placebo as a control. It would be impossible to isolate a control group since aromatherapy is by nature aromatic and cannot be hidden;
- Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy, most often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as massage, meditation, deep breathing and visualization. It would be impossible to isolate the benefits of the essential oils relative to the other treatments;
- Aromatherapy is pleasurable, and while modern science wants to “strip down” and isolate the chemical reactions from the holistic treatment, with aromatherapy it’s impossible (and undesirable) to do so.
Most people who engage in aromatherapy do so because of the empirical evidence – on themselves. If it’s pleasurable and works for you, then it works. It’s part of a holistic system that connects us more deeply to plants and their natural, alchemical constituents, and there is nothing ineffectual in that.