What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic effect of an aroma, defined as a scent or odor, on an individual’s physical or psychological conditions. Shirley Price, one of the world’s leading aromatherapists, defines aromatherapy as the controlled use of essential oils in a positive way to maintain good health and revitalize the body, mind, and spirit. Essential oils consist of natural scent molecules and when carefully selected may be used therapeutically.
Essential oils work in several ways:
1. The Placebo Effect. Now you might think because I’m a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist that it’s odd I reference the placebo effect as a mechanism of action for essential oils. The mind, however, is very powerful, this is why research is conducted against a placebo. The placebo effect is more than just positive thinking. The expectations of the patient play a significant role in the placebo effect; the more a person expects the treatment to work, the more likely they are to exhibit a placebo response. While a placebo has no effect on illness, it can have a very real effect on how some people feel. Our mind has so much power that placebo shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. Healing on all levels may involve some aspect of the placebo effect. If aromatherapy treatment makes a person feel better, it puts the whole person in healing mode no matter the reason.
2. The Olfactory System. This is not exclusive to essential oils but relies on the way the body processes aromas. Aromas of any kind such as essential oils, fragrances or environmental exposures, are taken in and passed through the olfactory bulb and are compared with emotions and memories in the brain. These are capable of producing a physiological response in the body.
3. The Chemicals. Essential oils are made up of chemical constituents that are capable of producing medicinal actions. These are often very useful for topical applications, such as oils that have antimicrobial or anti-inflammatory actions that can be utilized for specific health concerns.
Another factor in aromatherapy is a personal experience. Learn more from our post on The Personal Side of Aromatherapy.
Want to dive deeper into aromatherapy, essential oils, and how to use them as emotional support tools? Dive deeper in Aromatic Anchors. This course focuses on how your body processes aromas and how you can use this for emotional health by creating intentional anchors in scent using essential oils and mindfulness practices.