By Chloe Hill
Aromatherapy: History and Effects
Aromatherapy, used by human beings for thousands of years, is the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to promote the health of body, mind and spirit. Essences are ingested, used topically or inhaled. Each essence has its own properties producing different effects and are used solely on their own, or mixed together depending on the results and effects one is looking to achieve.
Starting nearly 6,000 ago the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese and Indians used aromatherapy for therapeutic, cosmetic, hygienic, ritualistic and spiritual purposes. The Chinese are credited with being the first to use aromatherapy for therapeutic purposes. The Greeks also recognized the medicinal benefits of aromatherapy and the practiced continued and was further developed throughout the middle ages.
In the early 20th century, a French chemist by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé sparked a renewed interest in the use of essential oils for medicinal purposes and coined the term “aromatherapy”.
In the late 20th century and today with new research studies done on the health benefits of aromatherapy and a resurgence of using more natural products, there is a growing use of essential oils in one’s daily life for therapeutic and cosmetic benefit.
Scientific studies on the effects of essential oils demonstrate that when you breathe in essences, parts of your brain are stimulated to influence your moods, emotions and physical state. Smell is our most powerful sense – 10,000 times more sensitive than any of our other senses. In addition, it’s the only one of our senses that is linked directly to the brain.
Chemical compounds in essential oils bind to the olfactory bulb receptors in the limbic system. So, as soon as we smell something a message is sent immediately to limbic system structures – a very primitive, more subconscious part of our brain that works in conjunction with the neo-cortex and the central nervous system to influence thought processes, emotions, behavior, olfaction, memories and register sensations. Because of this we experience very quick and intense reactions to odors. Have you ever caught a whiff of a scent and you are instantly transported back in time to a particular life event? That’s the limbic system at work.
Because olfactory tissue inside the nasal cavity is the only central nervous tissue in direct contact with the environment, therapeutic treatments involving aromas can benefit the mind and body.
Aromatherapy Effects Research Study
We had the opportunity to meet Nada Milosavljevic, M.D., J.D. Director of the Integrative Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. She directed a study that implemented a 10 week school-based integrative health program incorporating complementary and alternative medicine treatments including acupuncture, sound therapy and aromatherapy in January 2011 at three public high schools located in Massachusetts. The goal of the study was to see if the health program reduced stress and anxiety in the student participants.
Anxiety related disorders effect approximately 25% of those ages 13-18 and anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness affecting over 40 million adults in the US (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).
Dr. Milosaljevic also founded Sage Tonic, offering several holistic health and wellness products such as teas and aromatherapy towelettes, based on her research findings.
The aromatherapy treatment was administered at the beginning and end of the session, lavender (at the beginning) and grapefruit (at the end) essential oil was aromatized near the participant’s nasal passages for several minutes while they inhaled and exhaled normally. Inhalation of lavender EO is known to relieve stress, anxiety and tension and promote relaxation and sleep, while citrus oils such as grapefruit have a stimulating quality.
All of the 100 students who participated in the 10 week integrative health program reported moderate to significant reduction in anxiety and stress symptoms.
Aromatherapy is a very cost effective and non-invasive treatment that anyone can incorporate into their daily routine for better mental health and wellness.
Aromatherapy and Hypnap TruRest
Hypnap has found a way to help you benefit from the health promoting effects of aromatherapy on the go!
TruRest incorporates an optional aromatherapy component so you can now experience the benefits of natural essences on your flight, on the train, in your office or anywhere you use TruRest. Our aromatherapy oil treated strips slip into the grids on the back of the face plate and deliver aromas to your olfactory senses nearby. We will offer lavender and peppermint aromatherapy strips to start and other oils are being for tested for incorporation as well.
Hypnap TruRest Aromatherapy Strips
Along with calming effects, lavender has been shown to relieve headaches, nausea, dizziness, nasal congestion as well as many other ailments. Use this essence when you want to relax and get some sleep.
Peppermint has been shown to have a stimulating and uplifting effect and promote alertness and focus enhancing concentration and mental clarity. This is a great essence to use when you want to work or read and need to focus. Like lavender peppermint also works as a nasal decongestant.
We want our aromatherapy strips to be for your enjoyment only and not to affect your neighbor in the airplane seat next to you or others around you. We are experimenting with different treatments to find an optimal aroma intensity for you to enjoy and benefit while not disturbing those nearby.
Aromatherapy experts agree that using the natural essence produces the best results and benefits so we don’t use synthetics and we only use organic natural essences from The Essential Oil Company out of Oregon.
The Essential Oil Company organic essential oils
If your sole purpose for using our aromatherapy strips is simply to mask any disagreeable smells in the airplane cabin – that’s fine too!
Our aromatherapy component is still being developed. We would love to get your input. Please give us your feedback and suggestions on the essences you would like to see included in the aromatherapy component of the Body Rest. We look forward to hearing from you!
Integrative Health Services in School Clinics, Nada Milosavljevic, M.D., J.D. Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015, 5, 132-139 2015 Bentham Science Publishers Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 2