What are Essential Oils?
An essential oil is a concentrated liquid, or oil compound derived from plants. They have several other chemical names or simply are known as the “oil” of the plant from which they were extracted. The term “essential” comes from the reference to the essence of the plants aroma.
There are several different processes utilized to extract the oils from plants including but not limited to: distillation, cold pressing, solvent extraction, and expression. They are used in many products such as soaps, perfumes, candles, as well as many household cleaning products.
Many of the suggested claims have come from the increased popularity of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is considered an alternative medicine practice that uses different scented oil compounds for the benefit of one’s health. They have been used in massage oils and lotions, as well diffused in air by a warm air mister, nebulizer, incense or warming dish. Aromatherapists use essential oils in the practice of clinical aromatherapy to help with a number of health problems. Often thought of as nothing more than a “pretty scent,” true essential oils do have therapeutic properties, obtained from the various chemical components that make up an individual essential oil.
How does it work?
Have you ever experienced that ‘déjà vu’ sensation after catching the scent of something familiar- whether it’s a special perfume or cologne, or Grandma’s peach cobbler? This effect happens because of the limbic system of the brain and its’ direct connection to our senses. This area of the brain is one of the older embryological parts and is one of the first to form at the earliest stage of fetal development. It is also known as the emotional center of the brain and has direct activity in our emotional reactions, flight or fight response, pain reflex, mood and many others. The olfactory bulb is one component of this complex limbic system and responsible for our sense, and memory of smell. The limbic system has three main parts including the hypothalamus, hippocampus and amygdalae which are responsible for our emotional life, including the formation of memories.
Effects of Essential Oils
Each of the essential oils has different therapeutic properties in their ‘essence’. They have shown historically that they can have a calming and sedative effect such as lavender oil, or antiseptic properties like tea tree oil. Additionally, they have been suggested to have stimulating, sedative, aphrodisiac, and other body regulating effects. With aromatherapy, we inhale the scent of an essential oil. This smell gets converted by receptors in the nasal passages and the message is sent to the limbic system of the brain for processing. Because this ‘processing center’ of the brain is responsible for various body regulation functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and hunger- essential oils may have a direct effect on those functions. Consider that the essential oil has properties that are suggested to be calming to the body. The brain (limbic system/ hypothalamus), will respond by releasing neurochemical signals that tell the body to be calm and relax. The limbic system contains the memories of scent, and if any had a profound effect in our past memories, the body will recall these at a later time once the scent is present again. The scent will be closely tied to our emotional memories and after a certain smell is experienced, we may recall very quickly a time that was pleasing to us, as well as a time that may not have been.
Questions About Essential Oils?
Essential oils have unique and individual properties that may help with many of your health concerns. We are happy to share our knowledge of essential oils with you and answer any questions you may have. Please contact our office, or email questions to us at www.alevia.ca.