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7 Powerful Healing Benefits of Aromatherapy

February 5, 2014

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When I come home after a long day and it’s time to unwind, I dab a blend of lavender and sandalwood essential oils onto the soles of my feet to hasten the process. When a special someone in my household has tummy trouble, he’s been known to apply peppermint oil right onto his upset stomach. And once cold season hits, an aromatic mix of lavender, lemon, and peppermint flows through each room, opening up our airways. Whatever my body or mind asks for, I instantly wonder: is there an essential oil for that?  

Aromatherapy draws upon the healing powers of the leaves, flowers, stems, bark, seeds, roots, or peels of plants. It also encompasses a practice known as aromatic medicine, which centers on the belief that scent can strongly affect the mind. Historical use of essential oils dates back to ancient civilizations including the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greeks, who valued aromatic oils for their fragrance and used them for both religious rituals and medicinal purposes. Today, essential oils support a thriving industry and are used in everything from flavored foods to candles and perfumes to treatments at top spas and body work centers.

Aromatherapy’s power comes from the fact that high-grade, organic essential oils are naturally healing and therapeutic. They can be beneficial for physical ailments such as a stomach aches, allergies, migraines, or sore joints, as well as for finding emotional and spiritual balance. To access an oil’s curative properties, all you have to do is smell the oil or gently rub it into your skin. You can also try using the oils on a hot compress  or in a bath, diffuser, or a humidifier. Just be sure to always follow instructions for use, and only ingest oils if you’re guided by a certified practitioner, since some are toxic and may cause reactions. Also, check the expiration dates of your oils, because some have relatively short shelf-lives, while others seem to last forever.

The quickest way to benefit from essential oils is by deeply inhaling the scent, and then just allowing your brain to psychologically process it. Hold the oil under your nose and breathe it in for a count of three, then slowly exhale through your nose. The effects can last up to about 45 minutes, and you can repeat this process as many times as you want throughout the day. You’ll experience firsthand the powerful connection of the mind and body as the oil works its healing magic, spurred by simply breathing in the essential oil’s scent.

If you want to experiment with applying essential oils to your skin, a good place to start is your pulse points—your wrist, temples, neck—because the oil is quickly absorbed in these areas. Once it’s dabbed on, it works its way into your bloodstream and throughout your body. Since oils are potent and concentrated, remember to dilute them with a carrier oil, which are generally vegetable-, nut-, or fruit-derived, such as coconut oil, avocado, jojoba, or hazelnut oil. These have healing qualities themselves, and also function as a protective layer for your skin.

No matter what your mind or body woe, there’s an essential oil for it. Here are 7 of the most common uses: 

Stress: Breathe in the scent of rose abs, lavender, or cardamom to unwind and soothe tension. The scent ylang ylang is also calming and beneficial for restoring mental balance, while bitter orange peel may work to fight off feelings of frustration and anger.

Energy: Seize the power of cinnamon, lemon, and ginger for their energizing and restorative qualities, and their natural ability to ward away fatigue.

Congestion: Next time you’re clogged up, consider using black pepper oil, which may be helpful for flu, colds, and infections. Peppermint oil is also a powerful respiratory decongestant.

Mental fatigue: A drop of basil, peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary might do the trick for brain fog, since these oils may boost your mental alertness, concentration, and reaction times.

Sleep problems: Get some much needed shut-eye by using scents such as lavender, sandalwood, marjoram, and roman chamomile. Just place a few drops in your bathwater or on your pillow before you turn in for the night.

Stomach discomfort: Try some peppermint or ginger oil for a sour stomach or to relieve indigestion. Chamomile and lavender may ward off abdominal cramps and bloating.

Detox: Consider taking a detox bath with essential oils such as lavender, lemongrass, and geranium. Using grapefruit oil or a detoxifying blend of peppermint and lemon may also cleanse your body of toxins.

Which essential oils have you used? Which are you excited to try out?