"Aromatherapy," is a complementary and alternative medicine utilizing aromatic plant extracts and essential oils to promote relaxation, a sense of well-being, and healing. It's a topic a lot of people know a little bit about.
It’s probably common knowledge that lavender and chamomile scents are relaxing, so we use them for bathing and sleep support. When we want to be invigorated, we gravitate to menthol and other sharp, bright scents. You might even know someone who loves to advocate the use of essential oils for all kinds of therapeutic applications, including some that are more medical in nature.
So what exactly is going on behind the scenes with our body and mind's reaction to scent? It turns out its chemistry.
Terpenes – the science behind aromatherapy
Terpenes are aromatic compounds present in all plant material, especially after flowering. Terpenes distribute into the air naturally, just like petrol and alcohol. Terpenes help to purify the air. Many of them are anti-all-the-bad-things: antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial – you name it. There is good evidence suggesting that terpenes have direct physiological effects on the body.
Plant terpenoids are used for their aromatic qualities and play a role in traditional herbal remedies. For example, Lavender oil is one of the most well-known aromatherapy oils. It's valued for its antibacterial and antifungal properties resulting from terpanoids such as linalool, linalyl acetate, lavandulol, geraniol, or eucalyptol.
Terpenes are just one part of what makes up the efficacy of essential oils on the human condition – but thinking about how terpenes work helps to keep it simple for us laypeople. Alcohols, ketones, ethyls, aldehydes, esters, and phenols (among others) also influence why plants smell in specific ways and how powerful those smells can interact with their surroundings.
Keeping practical and safe with essential oils
More than ever before, people are turning to essential oils for their skin-healing, pain-relieving, or psychological balancing properties. However, if administered improperly, essential oils can cause an undesirable response. Used topically, rash, photosensitivity, or other more severe poisonous side effects can occur with the improper or overuse of some essential oils.
Always do your research when trying a new essential oil. Adverse reactions can depend on age, underlying health conditions or your medications or supplements use. You should dilute some essential oils before topical application. They should not be used in sensitive and highly absorptive areas like mucus membranes.
When and where to make the best use of essential oils
When used correctly, everyone can reap the benefits of essential oils. They are prevalent in organic cleaning and sanitizing supplies; can be used to heal topical wounds and scars; increase blood flow; heighten or calm the nervous system; improve memory retention and cognition; and potentially regulate hormone production and protect against oxidative stress on the cellular level.
The most widespread use of essential oils is as a balm to stressed physical or mental conditions or as a stimulant to increase mental or physical resiliency.
You can enjoy aromatherapeutic essences by bringing in a flower bouquet, lighting a candle, gardening, mixing essential oils with a liquid soap or body lotion, or diffusing essential oils into the air. When it comes to aromatherapy products and essential oils on the market, purity and quality matter! "Aromatherapy" with a synthetic fragrance will cause the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish by replacing the benefits of the natural compounds with a toxic substitute.
Try some aromatherapy with your next massage at True Potential Chiropractic!
The oils we use at TPC are certified pure therapeutic-grade essential oils. They have the highest efficacy available on the market. Ask your massage therapist about our essential oil options, and we'll be more than happy to give you your first aromatherapeutic experience on the house!