Aromatherapy is "the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being." The inhaled aroma from these "essential" oils have the power to stimulate brain function and alter one's mood and physical health. The benefits of essential oils are immediate, with only a few drops needed to experience profound results. While the full history of aromatherapy is unknown, we do know that the term was invented in 1937 after French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse effectively healed his burns with lavender essential oil. Aromatherapy was later used to heal the wounds of soldiers in World War II. Now aromatherapy is widely accepted as a powerful healing tool for a variety of health conditions.
Essential oils are currently used to treat headaches, poor digestion, depression and anxiety, and they also promote relaxation, sharpen focus, boost energy, and help with circulation, heart problems, and respiratory conditions like asthma. Topically essential oils can combat redness and skin irritation and heal acne. Because essential oils are so potent, you should used them with caution if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. You only need a few drops to feel a difference.
You can use essential oils topically, on their own or blended with carrier oils (like olive oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil) or you can use them in a diffuser. Here are 5 basic essential oils you should try right now:
Chamomile oil is extracted from the leaves of the Chamomile flowering plant through steam distillation. It is a calming agent and mood lifter, with antibiotic and antiseptic properties. Chamomile has a soothing scent that will promote relaxation and a positive mental state.
Peppermint oil is extracted from the peppermint herb flowers and is then steam-distilled. It is a cooling agent with many therapeutic benefits and it can be used to enhance your mood, sharpen focus, alleviate headaches, heal irritation and redness of the skin, assist with digestion, and relax the body.
Tea Tree is extracted from the leaves of the alternifolia tree and is then steam distilled. As one of the most popular essential oils, tea tree is used to boost the immune system and fight infections. It is highly effective as a skin treatment for burns, cuts, acne, and cold sores. Tea Tree is also a natural insecticide and a powerful treatment for muscle aches, respiratory conditions, and flu-like symptoms. Topically, tea tree can be used alone on the skin or mixed with a carrier oil or lotion.
Eucalyptus oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and twigs of the Eucalyptus tree. It is highly effective as a treatment for respiratory conditions and also has the power to improve concentration, fight migraines and fevers, and heal muscle aches and pains, with a similar "cooling effect" as peppermint.
Lavender is extracted and distilled from the flowers of the lavender plant. It has powerful stress-relieving effects and can treat headaches and promote relaxation. Lavender is also a natural antidepressant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory with vast applications.
You can find most of these essential oils (and more!) on Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs.