Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine that involves using certain aromas to treat a variety of conditions.
As a treatment technique, aromatherapy has been around for nearly 6,000 years, and proponents believe that it is a highly effective therapeutic technique.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils from plants for healing.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants.
Each contains its own mix of active ingredients, and this mix determines what the oil is used for.
Some oils are used to promote physical healing — for example, to treat swelling or fungal infections.
Others are used for their emotional value — they may enhance relaxation or make a room smell pleasant.
Orange blossom oil, for example, contains a large amount of an active ingredient that is thought to be calming.”
Breathing in molecules from essential oils is thought to stimulate certain parts of the brain that directly influence physical, emotional, and mental health.
There are essential oils in numerous scents and oil diffusers in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Many people follow specific “recipes” to mix different essential oil scents that provide relief for some acute and chronic health issues.
Mental Health Benefits of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is more than just smelling something nice.
There are many mental health benefits to using aromatherapy, including the following:
● Stress relief –Some essential oils are known to be relaxants that help reduce stress and the anxiety it causes. According to Organic Facts, “Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help to soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety. This is what most people who perform aromatherapy at home use it for since the mixtures are very simple and the research on this aspect of aromatherapy is very well-known and widely studied.” For stress relief try lavender, lemon oil, peppermint, bergamot, and ylang-ylang.
● Reduces depression – Aromatherapy can also be used to reduce feelings of depression. Massage therapy with essential oils may also be helpful to mental health. The Maryland Medical Center explains, “Massage therapy with essential oils (combined with medications or therapy) may benefit people with depression. The scents are thought by some to stimulate positive emotions in the area of the brain responsible for memories and emotions, but the benefits seem to be related to relaxation caused by the scents and the massage. A person’s belief that the treatment will help also influences whether it works.” Try chamomile, lavender, peppermint, and jasmine for depression.
● Improved memory – Studies show that aromatherapy can boost the memories of younger people and it may slow down the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. Try sage oil to enhance your memory.
● Improves sleep – Not getting enough sleep can cause or worsen many health conditions and can leave you feeling fatigued and unproductive. Try lavender, chamomile, jasmine, sandalwood, sweet marjoram, and ylang-ylang oils to manage sleep habits.
● Reduces pain – Pain relief is one of the most useful applications of aromatherapy. It may eliminate the need to use analgesics, so you won’t have to be concerned about any negative side effects of the medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, lavender oil, in particular, may “reduce pain for people with osteoarthritis of the knee; improve quality of life for people with dementia; and reduce pain for people with kidney stones.” Try lavender, chamomile, clary sage, juniper, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint oils for pain relief.
Know the Risks before Starting Aromatherapy for Mental Health
Aromatherapy could be a helpful option for those who wish to feel less stress and anxiety, improve their sleep quality, and reduce perceptions of pain says Johnny K – owner of True Life Recovery drug detox center in Orange County, California.
However, there are also certain risks that need to be taken into consideration before starting an aromatherapy practice.
There are some people who have allergies or other adverse reactions to some essential oils, so it’s important to be careful when being exposed to a new oil.
This can happen when the oil is breathed, as from a diffuser, or applied to the skin.
When diffusing oils into the air, it’s a good idea to mix it with water to dilute the oil.
Using as much water as possible while still being able to smell the fragrance is the safest way to do it.
It’s also important to understand that the quality of essential oils varies depending on where it’s purchased.
Doing some research about the oil and the company that is selling it will ensure that you get good quality oil.
Use only therapy-grade essential oils for home use.
Keep in mind that some oils that are considered safe for use for most people may not be safe for children, pregnant women, and pets.
Additionally, there are some essential oils that may have adverse interactions with certain prescription drugs, so it’s important to talk with a doctor before starting any aromatherapy practice.
While essential oils can have wonderful benefits for many people who struggle with mental illness or are in recovery from addiction, they are not a replacement for professional care.
It’s important to use essential oils holistically, as just one part of a wellness plan, along with the appropriate professional care that’s needed.