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The Basics of Aromatherapy
Each of the essential oils used in Aromatherapy can be used either alone or in combination to create a desired effect. Before using essential oils as part of an Aromatherapy treatment, it is important to understand the effect that the oil(s) has, and how it works.
Essential oils are found in different parts of the plant such as the flowers, twigs, leaves and bark, or in the rind of fruit. (for example, in Roses it is found in the petals).
The methods used to extract the oil are time consuming and expensive and require a high degree of expertise. Given that it takes in excess of 220 pounds of rose petals to produce only 4 or 5 teaspoonsful of oil, it is a process probably best left to professionals!
Due to the large quantity of plant material required, pure essential oils are expensive, but they are also highly effective – only a few drops at a time are required to achieve the desired effect.
Synthetic oils are available at a lesser price, but they simply do not have the healing power of the natural oils.
How Essential Oils Work
Essential oils have an immediate impact on our sense of smell, also known as “olfaction”. When essential oils are inhaled, olfactory receptor cells are stimulated and the impulse is transmitted to the emotional center of the brain, or “limbic system”.
The limbic system is connected to areas of the brain linked to memory, breathing, and blood circulation, as well as to the endocrine glands which regulate hormone levels in the body. The properties of the oil, the fragrance and its effect, determine stimulation of these systems.
When used in massage, essential oils are not only inhaled, but absorbed through the skin as well. They penetrate the tissues and find their way into the bloodstream where they are transported to the organs and systems of the body.
Essential oils have differing rates of absorption, generally between 20 minutes and 2 hours, so it is probably best not to bathe or shower directly after a massage to ensure maximum effectiveness.
The “Notes” of Essential Oils
Essential oils are often described by their “note”. The three categories of classification are: top note, middle note and base note. These terms relate to the rate at which they evaporate – or how long the fragrance will last.
Top Notes are the most stimulating and uplifting oils. They are strongly scented, but the perfume lasts between 3 to 24 hours.
Examples of Top note oils are:
- clary sage
Middle Notes last about 2 – 3 days, and affect the body functions. The perfume is less potent than that of top note oils.
Examples of Middle note oils are:
Base Notes are the slowest oils to evaporate, lasting up to one week. They have a sweet, soothing scent and a relaxing, comforting effect on the body.
Examples of Base note oils are: