Therapeutic Essential Oils: Using Aromatherapy to Enhance Wellness

By Val Silver

Therapeutic essential oils and aromatherapy products have been used for natural health care and spiritual practices for millennium. Research suggests that aromatherapy offers emotional and spiritual support. Aromatherapy oils are popular remedies for health and healing, stress and anxiety relief, and meditation. They are used for cooking, household cleaning, repelling insects, and personal care, as well as for cleansing and raising the vibration in sacred spaces.

Rosemary was burned in sick rooms during the time of the plague to protect workers from illness. Its fresh medicinal scent helps clear your head and your sinuses.

Aromatic plants such as mints and sage have been found in ancient tombs dating back over 12,000 years. Records dating back to 4500 B.C. show that aromatics were used for medicine, perfume, and religious ritual. 

Aromatherapy started making its way into modern medicine in the late 1800's. During World War I and World War II, therapeutic essential oils were used for treating battlefield wounds and infections.

If you have ever sniffed a rose, rolled lavender needles between your palms, or felt refreshed after taking a whiff of  fresh  lemon peel, you have experienced the delight and benefits of aromatherapy. 

Essential oils are made from volatile oils - the same oils that evaporate and give off the scent of fragrant flowers - extracted from leaves bark, flowers, seeds, and/or the roots of plants.  These molecules are captured and distilled for their scent and healing properties. Steam distillation is usually used to extract the essence, but some oils, such as lemon peel, are cold pressed. Others may be extracted with solvents.

It may take many pounds of plant material to make aromatherapy essential oils. Pure rose oil costs hundreds of dollars an ounce because hundreds of pounds of rose petals are needed to make it. Citrus oils, made from the rinds, use much less and are quite inexpensive.

How to Use Therapeutic Essential Oils

Your body and brain respond quickly to aromatherapy because your sense of smell provides a fast, direct path to your brain through the nerve fibers in your olfactory system. Some essential oils can be absorbed in the nasal cavity and through the lungs. 

Using therapeutic essential oils for pleasure and enhancing wellness is safe and effective when you know what you are doing. 

  • Follow directions carefully. Less is definitely more in aromatherapy. Using too much can be toxic or produce unpleasant effects. High-quality therapeutic essential oils are highly concentrated. One drop may be all you need. 
  • For external use, test first on your skin to make sure you don't have a reaction. With the exception of lavender and tea tree, which can be used straight or "'neat', always dilute the oils appropriately with a carrier oil before applying on your skin.
  • Keep in mind that the actions attributed to aromatherapy healing oils primarily refer to internal use. These actions may also be realized if the oil is absorbed through the skin. The trick here is to facilitate absorption before the oils evaporate. 
  • High grade pure, organic therapeutic essential oils are a must for internal use.  Lower grade oils may be less effective and often contain additives such as alcohol that are toxic when taken internally. Avoid products that use the word "fragrance". These are synthetic oils.
  • With few exceptions, only take therapeutic essential oils internally under the advisement of a qualified aromatherapist. These are very concentrated remedies. The dose is usually administered in a carrier and/or a capsule. Possible exceptions might be adding one drop of peppermint oil to a quart of tea or eating mint candies. A few drops of food-grade lemon or orange oil can be used to season foods and tastes lovely.
  • Except for aromatherapy healing remedies, cosmetics and skin lotions, high grade organic aromatherapy essential oils are usually not necessary. Good quality oils made without fragrances and other chemicals are less expensive and have a lovely scent. They are wonderful for making candles, room spritzes, soaps, and cleaning products. Remember, if you can smell it, you are absorbing it into your body, so don't compromise on quality.
  • A few manufactures produce therapeutic grade essential oils. Purchase from a reliable company. A sample kit like this is a fun way to experiment while getting to know the oils. An ultrasonic diffuser lets you enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy throughout the day and night. If you are making your own remedies or you want to use an essential oil for a specific health purpose, follow the recipes and instructions given by a qualified aromatherapist. 

Vibrational Healing with Aromatherapy Essential Oils 

Vibrational therapy promotes healing and well-being through the use of energetic resonance. Some healers use volatile oils and resins for vibrational energy healing either alone or along with laying on hands or other form of energy medicine, such as sound or light therapy.

Keep in mind that everything is energy and vibrates at energetic frequencies. When exposed to lovely aromas and the frequencies of the oils, our subtle energy is affected for the good.

Aromatherapy is used in energy healing to affect consciousness, set sacred space, and to positively affect the energy centers (chakras) and the energy field of the individual.

For example, cedarwood, sandalwood, frankincense, and patchouli help people feel grounded and centered, making them useful for balancing the root chakra.  When working with the seventh energy center at the top of the head, healers may use lavender, frankincense or myrrh to strengthen the connection with the spiritual and the Divine. You may recognize frankincense and myrrh being named as two of the gifts given to baby Jesus by the wise men.

Beyond Aromatherapy Healing

Fascinating research has been conducted regarding aromatherapy and its uses beyond healing. Researchers have found that there is a strong link between scents and memory.

  • 'Forgotten' memories buried in the subconscious can bubble to the surface in the presence of an associated aroma. For example, the scent of cinnamon or vanilla might bring up memories of holiday baking or grandma's house. Students who sniff a particular scent while studying find it easier to recall information when they sniff the same scent during an exam. 
  • When you have specific goals in place, everyday smells can activate these goals. Need a pick-me-up to get going in the morning? Take a sniff of rosemary or peppermint essential oil to clear your head and help you feel more awake.  Need motivation to clean your space? People who smell lemon, a common cleaning fluid scent, are more likely to tidy up than those who don't. 
  • Speaking of cleaning - many volatile oils have disinfectant properties. Eucalyptus, thyme, pine and tea tree will help keep your home germ-free while imparting a fresh, clean scent. Once you get used to using non-toxic products with real essential oils, the smell of chemical fragrances will be much less appealing. 
  • Selling a home or have an apartment to rent? Realtors suggest scenting a home with cinnamon or baking a pie when showing a home. The aroma awakens powerful associations and makes the house feel like home.
  • Lemon oil is diffused in Japanese stores because people make more purchases when they smell lemon. Perhaps this is because it is an uplifting scent.
  • A few drops of good quality lemon or orange oil added to a marinade on fish or chicken are yummy smelling and tasting. This is one of the few exceptions to the external use only rule.

Make therapeutic essential oils a regular part of caring for you mental and physical health. Used externally, they make a wonderful complement to medical care. They are some of the most pleasurable, enjoyable remedies you can use. Just massaging your hands and forearms with a cream scented with your favorite oils helps you feel nurtured and relaxed. This is no small thing when you are facing harsh medical treatments or just trying to recover from a stressful day. 

Whether you love the sweet fragrance of flowers, the medicinal scent of pine and rosemary needles, or the more earthy aroma of the resins and woods, there are aromatherapy oils for you. There is a scent for every mood and preference, complete with healing properties that make them wonderful for everything from pleasure to healing to cleaning your home to cosmetics and skin care. 

Related Pages

Therapeutic Essential Oils page updated 12/2020

What is Aromatherapy?

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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