What is Aromatherapy?
In aromatherapy, certain plant oils (called "essential oils") are used to promote well being and stimulate healing from a number of conditions. Occasionally incorporated into therapies such as massage, essential oils can also be applied to the skin (when diluted in a carrier oil) or inhaled (by using an aromatherapy diffuser, for instance).
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly potent substances that contain the aromatic compounds of a plant. The oils can be extracted from many different plant parts, including the flowers, leaves, and roots.
Five Essential Oils Proven to Work
Although there are hundreds of essential oils said to enhance health, not all have been studied for their beneficial effects. While research on aromatherapy is fairly limited, these essential oils have been found to be helpful in the treatment of certain conditions:
Breathing in the scent of lemon essential oil may significantly improve mood, according to a 2008 study of 56 healthy volunteers. However, study results also showed that lemon oil failed to lessen stress, ease pain, or lower blood pressure.
In a 2009 study, researchers discovered that animals that inhaled the scent of linalool (a compound found in lemon essential oil, as well as in lavender oil) had a decrease in their levels of stress-elevated immune cells.
Said to possess sedative properties, lavender essential oil has been found to help relieve anxiety and insomnia in several studies. A study published in 2007 also shows that lavender inhalation may help alleviate agitated behaviors among older adults with dementia.
3) Tea Tree
Long used in folk medicine to treat cuts, burns, infections, and other skin conditions, tea tree oil may help kill Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that cause staph infections), according to a 2009 report. Other studies show that tea tree oil may be effective in the treatment of warts, athlete's foot, and dandruff.
After sniffing the scent of rosemary for five minutes, volunteers in a 2007 study showed a significant decrease in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
In a 2003 study, meanwhile, participants working in cubicles scented with rosemary essential oil were more alert and had better cognitive performance than those who were placed in fragrance-free workspaces.
Taking peppermint oil in capsule form may help reduce some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, according to research published in 2007. When combined with caraway oil, peppermint oil may also be moderately effective in treating dyspepsia (a chronic condition marked by upper abdominal pain).
Applying peppermint oil directly to the skin has also been shown to help relieve tension headaches.
How to Use Essential Oils Safely
Since essential oils can cause considerable harm if used incorrectly, it's crucial to review a few key safety guidelines before working with aromatherapy.
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