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Aromatherapy: What is it?

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The sense of smell – it’s amazing that you can distinguish between a roast or a cake baking in the oven or even more closely related scents like orange or grapefruit. As you inhale molecules, some make their way to the back of your nose where they find the olfactory epithelium. The olfactory tract connects the epithelium and your brain.

You have over 40 million different olfactory receptor neurons in your brain. Different odors trigger different olfactory neurons. After they are triggered, the neurons make their way to different parts of your brain.

What is Aromatherapy?

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for healing. Although the word ‘aroma’ makes it sound as if the oils are inhaled, they can also be massaged into the skin or — rarely — taken by mouth. You should never take essential oils by mouth without specific instruction from a trained and qualified specialist.” (1)

In the third edition of Clinical Aromatherapy Essential Oils in Healthcare, the author (Jane Buckle, PHD, RN) writes regarding about the oral use of essential oils: “Clearly, education is vital. Tisserand & Young (2013) write ‘Medical practitioners who favor the oral route are frequently treating infectious diseases that require heavy dosing….therefore only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weight risks against benefits and have knowledge of essential oil pharmacology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration.’ I agree.”

For the purposes of this article, we will stick to the “inhaling essential oil” portion of aromatherapy. Inhalation can be done by holding the bottle up to your nose or by using a diffuser, humidifier, nebulizer, spray or aroma sticks or even cotton balls. The number of drops that you use depends on what you are using and how long you want the scent to last. For a cotton ball, as an example, you only need a few drops. When you are looking at recipes, realize that drop sizes can vary. Start with the smallest suggestion and suite to scent.

Types of Aromatherapy:

Aesthetic – You want your room or your office or your car to smell great.

Clinical – You have a problem that you would like to solve with aromatherapy. Maybe you have a difficult time getting to sleep (many use lavender or rose essential oil). Clinical aromatherapy is prescribed by a physician.

Holistic – You blend essential oils based off of your needs.

There is some information online about “Aromatherapy Models.” These models include French, German (inhalation), and British. See the thoughts of Gabriel Mojay, Associate Editor at International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, here .

 Creating Your Own Essential Oil Blends

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You can diffuse single essential oils or you can create your own blends. When you are building your own blends, here are some things to consider:

Oils can be grouped into top notes, middle notes, and base notes. As you start to diffuse your blend, you’ll notice the scents of the top notes first. The top note scent isn’t as long lasting as middle notes or base notes.

Top Notes include: Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mints, Neroli, Orange, Tea Tree, and Thyme. For every 10 drops added to your blend, use a maximum of 3 drops of top notes.

Middle note oils will help bring some balance to your blend. Bergamot, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, Pine Needle, Roman Chamomile, Rosemary, and Sweet Marjoram are popular middle notes. Middle notes will make up the bluk of your blend – from 50 – 60%.

The scent of Base Notes will outlast top and middle notes. Often times these essential oils will be more expensive than top and middle notes. Oils like Frankincense, Jasmine, Myrrh, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Sandlewood, and Ylang Ylang are considered Base Notes. Use these oils in 10 – 30% of your blend.

There are some essential oils that straddle the line between Top and Middle/Middle and Base. Other sources may have lists that are slightly different than ours. One of the great things about creating your own blends is experimenting and seeing what works for you!

1: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy

 

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