How aromatherapy helps boost your wellbeing

More than just being fragrant, essential oils have been embraced for their therapeutic benefits, with aromatherapy said to aid everything from mood to pain management.

Aromatherapy has been practised for thousands of years, embraced by everyone from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

“Aromatherapy is the holistic use of aromatic materials, including essential oils, to promote health and wellbeing,” Denise Lynd, director of Aminya Natural Therapies Academy, says.

Aromatherapy works by stimulating receptors in the nose, which then send messages through our nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions and memory, Denise explains.

What are the benefits of aromatherapy?

“Aromatherapy has long been used to help soothe and calm the emotions, encourage relaxation, help improve sleep quality, and help minimise feelings of stress and anxiety,” aromatherapist Catherine Cervasio says.

While numerous studies have looked at aromatherapy and its various uses and benefits, there is still further research to be done before it becomes a more common part of mainstream medicine.

However, thus far, the research has revealed some interesting findings.

Recent research from Monash University has found essential oils “are reported to consistently enhance emotional health, including lowering anxiety and depression.”

Another study found aromatherapy to have a positive effect in reducing pain.

Getting started with essential oils

A true essential oil is made using the stem, leaves, twigs, flowers, seeds, resins, bark and more of a particular plant.

When choosing a quality essential oil, it’s important to ensure that you’re buying from a reputable supplier.

The bottle should show the botanical name of the plant on it, the country of origin, as well as the part (or parts) of the plant that the oil comes from.

With essential oils, you definitely get what you pay for, Denise says.

“It takes over a tonne of rose petals to make one 12ml bottle of rose essential oil, so that’s where the price comes in,” she explains.

How to apply essential oils

The most common way to use essential oils is through smell, either by inhaling them directly — use a roll-on or add a drop on a tissue that you keep on you — or through using a diffuser.

“Essential oils can also be used in creams and lotions, and be topically applied to a greater area of the body where skin absorption can help transmit the substances,” Catherine suggests.

You can also add aromatherapy oils to a bath or use them in a massage, but it’s important not to apply essential oils to the skin undiluted as this can cause a reaction.

And, if you’re on any medication, look out for any contraindications.

Which aromatherapy scents smell the best?

Choosing an essential oil comes down to your own sense of smell.

Denise advises if you like the fragrance of a particular oil, that is probably the one you should have.

“That’s your body chemistry telling you that this is the oil for you,” she says.

“At the moment, I’m very drawn to bergamot — that’s probably because I’ve got a lot on and if you look at the properties of bergamot, it’s very uplifting; and what I need is a little bit of energy.”

One of Catherine’s favourites is chamomile.

“German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) in particular has an earthy, herbaceous aroma and a multitude of applications, including helping to soothe skin — a great one for red, inflamed or ‘hot’ skin,” Catherine says.

She also recommends sandalwood (Santalum album), which can be used together with lavender.

“I spray this blend on a tissue and inhale to help promote a more restful sleep,” Catherine suggests.

Written by Tania Gomez.