If you’re like me, you’ve been using essential oils for as long as you can remember without a clear understanding of how they work. Over the years, I’ve read a little about them here and there and been inspired to try them for various issues. The more I’ve used them and learned about them, the more I appreciate them. Finally, I’ve taken the time to get a better understanding of the how and the why.
I find their history fascinating. This write-up from The Essential Oils Academy shares from the beginning of recorded history, the plant kingdom has provided powerful extracts and essences that have been prized for their beauty-enhancing, medicinal, spiritual, aromatic, and therapeutic values. There is evidence of plant elixir use in Egypt, Ancient Greece, and past- & present-day India, where they are a remedial element of Ayurveda. You will find mention of them in the Bible. They have even been utilized by physicians through the ages to treat soldiers during wartime. And now in Europe and North America, their use is widespread.
If you’ll remember, in my post For the Love of Trees, I shared that plants emit an abundance of chemicals that benefit themselves as well as animals, including us. Essential oils are a condensation of these phytochemicals as a result of distillation. Because so much plant material is required to make them, the oils are super-concentrated, strong medicine. (And sometimes quite pricey.)
Essential oils are used in all kinds of products, from cleaners to insect repellants, body lotions, and face creams. But even when we don’t apply the oils directly, their aromas can have profound impacts.
Years ago, I remember walking into a casino in Las Vegas and realizing I was being drenched in aromatherapy. I read up on it, and learned that casinos began using these scents to increase profits in 1991. Presently, every spot on the Las Vegas Strip has a proprietary scent that is constantly emitted from their ventilation system. Scent marketing is now a multi-million dollar industry, also used in medical offices, retail stores, and sports stadiums to help us remember our visits as pleasant ones, encouraging our return.
How can the scent of these plant oils have such strong effects? I was curious, too. In The Ultimate Guide to Aromatherapy, Jade Shutes and Amy Galper elucidate: the olfactory tract sends nerve impulses to the limbic system, including the heavily-innervated amygdala. The role of the amygdala in emotion, memory, and autonomic control directly ties olfaction to these primordial functions and adds complexity to the odor perceptual experience, they write. That explains why scents from the past can take us back. (For more on the power of smell, check out my post Smellscapes.)
The book is filled with information on specific oils and their benefits. Many are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging. In my experience, a whiff of lavender oil can help with sleep. A couple drops of peppermint oil on the hairline gets rid of headaches, and rubbed onto muscles, it eliminates or reduces pain. I’ve also found diffusing eucalyptus while showering helps with a stuffy nose. But that’s just scratching the surface. There are oils used for healing wounds & various skin afflictions, reducing anxiety, increasing alertness, and helping with nausea. (I would suggest adding the oils to an unscented lotion or carrier oil for application, doing a test patch before applying liberally, and reading up on possible effects on children and pets prior to using. Also, make sure you’re purchasing oils that are organic if possible & sustainably-sourced.)
The little bit of digging I’ve done on essential oils has helped me to understand just how they have helped me through the years. I hope the information I’ve shared encourages you to try these phytochemical powerhouses, yet another of Nature’s gifts to us, in a variety of ways.
Blessings from the Plant World,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.