Anyone who is fortunate enough to have visited a spa for a luxurious massage or a cleansing facial has likely experienced the many benefits of aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is a treat for the senses, and not just because of the wonderful aromas. Also referred to as essential oil therapy, aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of body, mind, and spirit. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, aromatherapy seeks to unify physiological, psychological, and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
The Season’s Most Luxurious Oils to Splurge on
This holiday season, why not think outside of the scarf and perfume box and surprise a loved one with the gift of a decadent, aromatic essential oil? A tiny bottle of a fragrant essential oil is the perfect stocking stuffer! Each essential oil’s complex, pleasant, and unique scent activates the limbic system—the brain’s center of emotion and memory—differently. Essential oils can be the key to a more fulfilling and balanced emotional life—and who couldn’t use a little more fulfillment and balanced emotions this holiday season?
Different oils have different healing properties; some can be ingested (dropped in water or taken by capsule) while others should be cold air diffused or even applied topically directly to the skin. These oils can be costly because each requires an extraordinary amount of plant material during the distillation process. Here are a few of the top luxurious oils to consider for a creative and indulgent gift.
Bulgarian Rose essential oil (known botanically as Rosa x damascena) is mainly used in the fragrance industry, but is also known for its sedative and aphrodisiac effects. It has a very rich, deep, floral aroma with slightly spicy notes. It can cost over $200 for a quarter of an ounce. Why so expensive? It takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to distill one pound of oil.
Frankincense (also known as olibanum) was one of the gifts the wise men took to the infant Jesus at his birth—and with good reason. This precious oil can cost up to $200 for an ounce today. It includes the naturally occurring constituent boswellic acid, and has a woodsy, warm, balsamic aroma. It is extracted from the Boswellia tree, which grows in Africa and the Middle East. Diffuse frankincense during meditation for grounding and purpose. Applying this oil topically may help smooth the appearance of healthy-looking skin, and is excellent to use for massage after activity.
Sandalwood essential oil (known as Santalum spicatum) uses the roots and the heartwood of the Australian sandalwood tree. Its scent is soft, woodsy, and balsamic. It is considered an ecologically responsible alternative to Indian sandalwood and is most often used in perfumery as a substitute for Indian sandalwood. Sandalwood has many calming effects and has been noted for its help with dry skin, anxiety, and tension.
Aromatherapy to Ward off Cold and Flu
Flu season is just around the corner, but before you stock up on over-the-counter medicines, consider a handful of therapeutic-grade essential oils, many of which have significant antiviral properties.
“Clove has the highest antiviral properties of nearly any other essential oil on the market,” said Debbie Alton, an internationally certified aromatherapist and reflexologist, serving clients in The Woodlands and Tomball, Texas. “Others include cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary.” Debbie is a certified expert on 52 essential oils and uses them in multiple therapies with her clients, including reflexology, rain drop therapy, and reiki.
Make Aromatherapy Part of your Bedtime Routine
A recent surge in the popularity of using essential oils (which have been around for thousands of years) for health and wellness has brought another viable, natural option to the table for individuals who suffer from insomnia. And although the notion of using aromatherapy for sleeping might seem a little strange, scientific research actually supports the concept. Used properly, aromatherapy can provide better quality sleep and even reduce the effects of insomnia.
Practitioners of aromatherapy generally recommend choosing options full of natural, plant-based products. Whether you spritz your pillow with a spray, apply an essential oil directly to your skin, or diffuse the oil with an ultrasonic diffuser, the key to sleeping success is in selecting the right aroma.
It is important to note that aromatherapy cannot cure insomnia or its root causes directly, but it can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer without the side effects of medications.
By far the most popular aroma for sleeping is lavender, followed by vanilla and chamomile. Many massage therapists use a combination of these aromas in conjunction with a massage session because they are universally relaxing and pleasant.
Lavender in particular is gaining respect among researchers who study the science of sleep. Recent studies show lavender quantifiably improves quality of sleep. It can also help with headaches and migraines.
Chamomile is considered a natural sedative, very helpful when used for insomnia. Chamomile tea is a common hot drink of choice at bedtime because of its calming and soothing effects.
Vanilla might seem better suited to the kitchen, but not where aromatherapy is concerned. Because of its relaxing properties, vanilla scents are commonly used in bath products and candles to help promote restful sleep.
Happy Holidays and a very aromatic New Year!
By Tammy Adams