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I absolutely love the feeling I get when I smell something that triggers a memory for me and instantly transports me back to a time or place where that fragrance had some sort of meaning to me. Cinnamon always reminds me of my parents house in the Winter because my mom would boil it on the stove. Hot blacktop and fried food always takes me back to trips to Six Flags. Citrus scents like lemons, oranges and grapefruits always lifted my mood even on the worst of days. And even though I don't have a specific memory that I cling to with it, the smell after a hard rain always puts me at ease.
All of these things led me to learning more about aromatherapy, especially when we started The Gnarly Whale. As much as I thought I understood it when I first dove into learning it, I realized really quickly that there was so much more to it than just smelling something and watching your mood change. So I thought I'd share what I've learned with this introduction to aromatherapy.
What is aromatherapy?
In it's simplest terms, aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for physical or emotional healing. It's a practice that has been around for thousands of years for therapeutic use that goes beyond enjoying the scent of something.
How does aromatherapy work?
Aromatherapy works when essential oils are able to enter into the bloodstream. Generally, this is done through inhalation or absorption. Both are common practices for aromatherapy, but depending on the symptoms that are being treated, one may be better suited for the situation.
Inhalation occurs when you inhale the essential oils into the lungs. When inhaled, the natural components of the essential oil are likely to trigger a reaction in your brain and provide therapeutic benefit as well. This can be done through regular breathing techniques or steam. Vaporizers, room sprays, and diffusers can be used for this method as well.
Absorption occurs when you allow the essential oil to have direct contact with your skin for it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This can be done in a variety of ways, including:
- Massage or body oil
- Tub bath
- Hand or foot bath
Regardless of which method you choose, remember that essential oils are incredibly powerful and concentrated so they are almost always diluted in a carrier oil before use.
What are carrier oils?
Carrier oils are a base oil that can be used to dilute essential oils for use via aromatherapy. Common carrier oils are almond oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil, and jojoba oil.
What is the dilution ratio??
Generally 1-3% is considered safe, but I rarely, if ever, actually go up to the 3%. Normally 1-2% is plenty. Less is more with essential oils – you do not need that many drops of one for it to be effective. Always start smaller than you think you need to and build up if necessary. On average, I use about 8-12 drops per ounce of carrier oil.
I'll expand on this post with a mini-series on essential oils so next week, I'll be sharing a bit on what they are, how they differ from fragrance oils, common uses, and how certain ones can be used in aromatherapy. If you have any questions you'd like me to answer in this series, feel free to ask in the comments!
do you use aromatherapy?
if so, how has it helped you?
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The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only – I'm not a doctor and am only sharing what I have learned over the years. This information is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. When using essential oils, never use them undiluted. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner and keep away from pets and children. If you're applying an essential oil to your skin, always perform a small patch test to a less sensitive part of the body after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier oil.