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Aromatherapy

Kamala Thiagarajan

Have you felt more alert once the strong aroma of percolating coffee has wafted its way to you every morning? Or more alive after encountering the crisp scent of the moist mud before the monsoon rains, the rich, fiery perfume of spices in kitchens, of jasmine and sandalwood, sweet red roses and mint green grass, your favorite homemade dish and your special perfume? Fragrance is everywhere and it defines our world. No one can deny that our sense of smell constantly enriches our lives and overpowers our emotions, thoughts and feelings in a very subtle way.

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Aromatherapy as a science of healing

For generations, scientists and researchers have been fascinated with the discipline of aromatherapy. This led to the study of plants and their extracts, and the creation of essential oils—the concentrated essences of various flowers, herbs, fruits and plants that were packed with the goodness of natural scent. These have been used since ancient times for spiritual or medicinal purposes.

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Aromatherapy has established that our sense of smell has a direct impact on how we feel and by extension—our overall health and well-being. Like other senses, what we smell is transmitted directly to the brain. Each scent, depending on its origin and nature, has a different impact on our physical and nervous system. For instance, studies have shown that the aroma of lavender increases alpha waves in the back of the brain, which is associated with relaxation. On the other hand, jasmine scent increases beta waves in the front lobes of the brain, which are proven to make you more alert.

It wasn’t until 1920 however, that the world discovered the extraordinary extent of the healing effects of essential oils. A French chemist called René Maurice Gattefosse, who devoted his life to researching the healing properties of essential oils, was experimenting one morning in his laboratory, when he accidentally set fire to his arm. In a frenzy of pain, the scientist thrust his burning arm into the nearest liquid he could find—a vat of cold lavender oil. Much to Maurice’s amazement, the wound healed quickly and without a trace of a burn or scar. Thus, the exploration of natural scents for their physical healing properties (and not just their emotional or psychological benefits) began. The French were the forerunners of aromatherapy and continue to impress the world today with the medley of their creative and mood-uplifting perfumery!

Healing effects

In the late 1980’s, Candace Newman was the Executive Vice-President of a large real estate company in Naples, Florida. She had several health challenges. After 15 doctors and 2 operations, she realized that she had to turn to alternative therapy for a permanent solution. When an aromatherapist from England used pure essential oils in blends on her, her whole life changed. “I was in awe of how they helped my aches and pains, as well as my fatigue and emotional stress. I also have not cared for perfumes and smells in my life so I wondered why I was fine with these,” says Newman. Thus began her passionate mission to learn about these precious liquids. “Smell is a silent language of thought, memory and emotion. It is cross-cultural and knows no boundaries of age, condition, or location. The part of the brain our olfactory nerves and tract connect to is the limbic system, often referred to as our primitive. This is the seat of our emotions. When aromatic molecules travel up our nose and hook into the olfactory nerves, it changes our emotional state in less than a second,” says Newman.

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Today, Candace Newman is one of the authors of The World of Aromatherapy, as well as numerous other publications. She is also the founder of Oil Lady Aromatherapy and Touch With Oils. She and her husband are owners of The Good Medicine Tin® Company, which distributes aromatherapy products across the world. “As I was healing, I started my Aromatherapy practice in my home, which involved treatments, teaching and writing. I realized that Aromatherapy is a complex and confusing topic with well of 400 essential oils. I wanted to make this simple and understandable for everyone, so they could have essential oils improve their quality of life and bring back the reverence for life in all things,” she says. So The Good Medicine Tin was born around her kitchen table. “I could see that with five top essential oils, one can do a lot of things. Organic Golden Jojoba as the base oil, our Lavender Mist, and the pure essential oils of Lavender, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Orange.”

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“Aromatherapy has established that our sense of smell has a direct impact on how we feel and by extension – our overall health and well-being.”

Aromatherapy in our daily lives

We can easily incorporate the tenets of aromatherapy in our daily lives. You can enjoy the benefits of this healing science by placing a few drops of essential oil in your bath, on a handkerchief that you carry about with you the whole day, or by using scented candles, a diffuser that sprays the aroma of the essential oil evenly throughout your room, or even by mixing the essential oil with another oil such as almond, olive and sesame. Be sure to mix this only with oils that don’t have their own scent. Always use essential oils sparingly and carefully to achieve the maximum benefit and never apply the undiluted oil directly onto exposed skin for fear of allergic reactions. These extracts are highly concentrated and may even burn sensitive skin if applied directly. While using essential oils, always remember to inhale their fragrance deeply, so that you can imbibe its goodness.

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“Smell is a silent language of thought, memory and emotion. It is cross-cultural and knows no boundaries of age, condition, or location.”

Battling everyday ills—your DIY kit

The science of smell can be employed in the battle against common ailments; however, do keep in mind that this is a highly subjective science. “One of the main lessons essential to us is that they demand we honor the individuality in each human being,” says Newman. “The natural chemistry of lavender balances the central nervous system, and is naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and analgesic. It is the (primary) essential oil for stress. However, if someone had an unpleasant experience with lavender in their life and did not like the smell, these emotions will actually override the natural chemistry of the oil, and it would not have this relaxing effect on them. It could actually make them agitated, angry, and give them a headache, even though it is known to help with headaches. Therefore, it is important to understand the natural chemical medicine of the liquid of the essential oil and it is just as important to honor how it makes the person feel. Our ‘nose-brain’ connections make each of us unique.”

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General remedies that you can personalize

Tension and migraine headaches: One can use the essence of lavender oil when besieged by frequent headaches. Essential oils such as chamomile, rosemary, peppermint and lavender can be combined with an almond oil base and used to combat symptoms of headaches and eyestrain. Massage the essential oil blend onto the scalp and forehead. For sinus headaches, the scent of marjoram essential oil can be inhaled through a handkerchief.

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“When aromatic molecules travel up our nose and hook into the olfactory nerves, it changes our emotional state in less than a second.”

Cuts, Scrapes and Wounds: Apply a couple of drops of lavender oil or tea tree oil extract directly onto cuts and wounds. These oils, when used sparingly, will act as natural healers.

Relief from Stress and Anxiety: A blend of lavender and grapefruit, added to a dispenser that is placed on your work table, can do wonders to create a soothing atmosphere. Lavender has a calming effect and grapefruit heightens your senses, making you more quick and alert.

Glowing Skin: Add 1 drop Geranium oil or myrrh to your facial moisturizer to bring out a radiant glow in your skin.

Healthy Hair: Place 1 or 2 drops of rosemary on your hair brush before brushing out your locks to promote healthy hair!

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Household Germicide and Cleanser: Peppermint oil is a natural cleanser and two drops can be added to the washing machine as you do your laundry. You can also combine this with a couple of drops of your favorite scent such as lemon essence, so that your clothes not only come out squeaky clean but fragrant too!

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