Aromatic plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The oldest known herbal text, Shen Nung’s Pen Ts’ao (c. 2700-3000 B.C.) catalogs over 200 botanicals. Ayurveda has also employed aromatic oils for millenia for both physical and mental not to mention spiritual benefits. The ancient Egyptians were also adepts at deploying essential oils. In the mid-twentieth century, modern aromatherapy as we know it originated in France.
Essential oils can be used in 3 different modes of application:
- by inhalation
- by direct application to the skin
- taken internally
However, great care must be taken with the use of these oils, as they are highly concentrated substances. Not all oils, for example may be taken orally and, when applied to the skin, most need to be applied in some type carrier oil such as jojoba that will dilute them to prevent topical burning at the site of application. Oils may also be added to bath water for aromatic bathing.
What Are The Health Benefits of Aromatherapy?
As with herbs, the active components within essential oils produce pharmacological effects such as analgesia, relaxation or an increased sense of wellbeing. Aromatherapy has both strong physical and psychological benefits.
Aromatic oils enter the bloodstream via the avleoli in the lungs. Direct action on the bloodstream as it is simultaneously being re-oxygenated through inhalation causes the distribution of the active plant ingredients to be dispersed via the arterial system, and to reach deep into the tissues. During the Great Plague in London in 1666, an essential oil formula known as the Four Thieves was even used to protect people from infection and a form of this is still available today as an immune tonic (1).
Essential oils also directly communicate with the brain via the olfactory bulb, which can be seen in red in the picture above. This organ decodes molecules at smell receptors and sends the messages on to our limbic sytem, which is the central portion of the brain housing our emotional responses.
Recent research in neuroscience has also shown that the olfactory bulb (along with the caudate nucleus and hippocampus) is a generative site for new neurons within the brain itself (2). Until fairly recently, medical science assumed that the brain could not produce new nerve cells, and that the aging process was simply entropic. Now we this is not true at all. Not only does the brain produce new cells, but this regeneration appears to have some connection with our smell recpetors and the aromas we take in, as it involves the olfactory bulb as a site of regeneration. It is said that “we are what we eat”. Perhaps we are also “what we smell”, and perhaps the way we smell things also somehow determines the health of our brains, and our capacity for nerve regrowth and renewal. Certainly, ancient peoples held aromatic substances in great reverence, and today the benefits of aromatherapy can be be re-assessed through modern scientific understanding.
What Are A Few Example Oils And Their Applications?
- Clarysage: anxiety, menstrual pain
- Clove: worms and prevention of parasitic infestation
- Eucalyptus: coughs, colds, sinus congestion
- Oregano: viral and bacterial infections
- Rosemary: memory problems, flatulence, bronchitis
- Neroli and Bergamot: grief and anxiety
Aromatherapy and Acupuncture
At Friday Harbor Holistic Health, we apply special essential oil combinations to acupuncture points to re-balance the mind-body system. The oils will directly enter the patient’s bloodstream (via the skin) and also their meridian system (via the acupoints). Acupoints themselves have been shown to contain very high concentrations of endorphins along with DNA, RNA, and numerous essential hormones. We further stimulate these points through Vibropuncture techniques: crystal semi-conductors energize the acupoints which have already been stimulated with the aromatic oils. This combination approach causes deep perfusion of the healing vibrations into the patient’s body, enlivening the resident concentrations of hormones, endorphins and nucleic acids located at these points.
How Can This Kind Of Acupuncture-Aromatherapy Help Me?
Many people are highly sensitive beings, or else they have been de-stabilized at inner regulatory levels by the stressors or ubiquitous toxins of contemporary life. Over time, these factors can induce a “chaotic” state within the person’s autonomic nervous system, which means that symptoms will not easily clear away despite medicines, supplements or other therapeutic intervention. If this precursor state of stress-driven “chaos” driving the autonomic nervous system responses can be re-regulated, the patient will have a chance to heal at a deeper level.