What, really, is Aromatherapy? In the United States, common use of the term ‘Aromatherapy’ is a bit misleading. The practice has been given a ‘touchy-feely’, ‘soft-science’ status to the general public through mainstream media. In much of the rest of the world, however, the therapeuatic use of aromatic essential oils has a more elevated, scientifically-backed status. In France, for example, one can only purchase essential oils through a licenced Aromatherapist; this is due to the well-known, powerful interaction of essential oils and the human physiology.

At it’s heart, Aromatherapy encompasses the entire branch of botanical medicine using volatile aromatic plant compounds for treatment of various medical conditions. The term was coined by a French scientist after his discovery of Lavender oil’s healing effects on burns he had sustained in the laboratory. The practice of ‘aroma’ therapy – or the inhalation of essential oils to make one ‘feel good’ – is more a delightful side-note than the primary healing benefit essential oils can provide. Many important actions of essential oils don’t even have to do with one’s sense of smell. Beyond acting on the psyche through the limbic system (the ’emotional’ center of the brain, immediately affected by the smell sense), many essential oils have proven antibiotic, antiviral, antispasmodic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, tissue-regenerative and other actions.

The well-known effects of genuine essential oils on the nervous system and psyche through the smell sense is certainly not to be ignored. Important, useful actions have been documented through university studies. Lavender oil, for example, has been noted to help many individuals who suffer from insomnia; even better than pharmaceutical sedatives in many cases, without side effects and development of tolerance. Other studies have shown improvement of test scores of students who have inhaled Lemon or Rosemary oils during study sessions. The list continues – and with little suprise. The ‘aromatic’ effects of essential oils rely on the olfactory sense’s direct connection with primary control centers of the brain. It is the only one of the five senses with such a direct connection – the others are first routed through the Thalamus before interacting with the bulk of the grey matter.

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