AROMATHERAPY- HOW DOES IT WORK?
Maybe you don’t know this about us, but we fuckin’ love science.
The term “aromatherapy” was first coined by a white dude named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (if he didn’t rip it off someone else, cause white dudes in the 19th century loved to do that). Rene-Maurice was a biochemist that believed in and published the capabilities of essential oils treating diseases. This all began with an accident in his perfumery in which he was badly burned. Immediately upon injuring himself, Rene-Maurice plunged his burnt hand into a vat of lavender and was astounded at the healing that commenced. After this shocking revelation, he wrote several books on essential oils, citing them as a cure for maladies such as skin cancer, ulcers, and even black widow bites.
Time to put your lab coats and goggles on if you plan on reading the next couple paragraphs.
There have been multiple documented studies on the ability of essential oils in treating both mood and wellbeing when used topically or through inhalation. According to the Yale Scientific, “a study from the Mie University School of Medicine found that patients with depression needed smaller doses of antidepressant medications after citrus fragrance treatment. Another study from the University of Vienna demonstrated that when the scent of orange oil was used in dental clinics, female patients exhibited decreased anxiety. These studies suggest that some fragrances may have a clinically quantifiable effect on mood.”
Scent is processed through the olfactory system which then sends messages directly to both the limbic system and the amygdala. The limbic system processes the body’s complex response to emotions. When these scents’ messages are relayed to the limbic system, they can affect heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance. The amygdala is the brain structure responsible for memory and emotional learning. (If you are a true crime addict, this is where you can connect brain damage and serial killers. If someone you know has suffered damage to their amygdala, just keep an eye on them.) Smells are linked so specifically with certain memories or emotions thanks to the olfactory systems direct communication with the amygdala. The power of association with previous memories that are positive can be a powerful tool in promoting mood. Keep those bottles of lavender close my sweet, little bitchatchos. That weed looking flower could actually calm down your limbic systems responses next time someone from out of state cuts you off in rush hour traffic.
Could this be a placebo effect? Yeah. Sure. Many studies show positive correlations with using essential oils, while many others remain inconclusive. Likely, you won’t find a negative correlation, though. They did use patchouli to mask the stench of decay in morgues. In case you just really wanted me to say something less than complementary about oils.
HOW ARE THEY MADE?
This is the most common method used in making the oils that we primarily use today. Plant matter is put in a still with water and steamed. (Is this like corn liquor? Inquiring minds
want to know.) Once the unwanted bits are removed oils are created with the remainders. This process is not used for citrus or delicate flowers.
Extraction Cold pressing. They just take citrus peels and press the oils out of them. Simple as that.
INHALATION VS. SKIN APPLICATION
Stimulating the olfactory receptors through your sense of smell. Your nose is really close to your brain. It may not come as a surprise to some of you, but there is a high number of capillaries in your nose thus making the absorption rate quite high, sometimes even hitting 70%. Skin Application Oils absorb into the skin at different rates. It is estimated to be between 4%-25% of the oil that is absorbed. Carrier oil is recommended when using this method to discourage skin irritation.
SCENTS THAT SCIENCE LOVES
Lavender - This scent has been proven to slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. Some senior facilities use lavender to calm dementia patients.
Geranium - Relaxes the body similarly to lavender.
Peppermint - Sharpens mental focus akin to a stimulant. Enhances concentration and alertness.
Grapefruit -Appetite suppressant. (Apparently one study showed that men thought that women that wore grapefruit were younger than when those same women were not wearing it. It can fool the foolish into thinking you haven’t aged.)
SCENTS THAT ARE POPULAR
Chamomile: Reduce stress, improve sleep
Clary Sage: Relaxation, balances hormones, calming
Eucalyptus: Clear sinuses, energizing, invigorating
Ginger: Reduce nausea, digestion support
Lavender: Better sleep, improve mood, soothing, great for skincare
Lemon: Increase happiness, improve concentration, cleansing, purifying Peppermint: Boost alertness, reduce headaches, refreshing, uplifting
Rosemary: Increase your focus, memory support
Sweet Orange: Can reduce anxiety, uplift mood
Ylang-ylang: Stress reduction, natural perfume replacement
**advisory. Please do not replace any ADHD medication with peppermint oil because it has stimulant properties. It isn’t THAT potent.
-The author with severe adult ADHD