so anyway.). I heard correctly. Frankly, the only reason my ears perked up was my recent exposure to Aromatherapy
and, by extension, essential oils.
Enough is enough. Get to the point. What is an Essential Oil?
According to Dictionary.com: Essential oils (Chem.), a class of volatile oils, extracted from plants, fruits, or flowers, having each its characteristic odor,
and hot burning taste. They are used in essences, perfumery, etc., and include many varieties of compounds; as lemon oil is a terpene, oil of bitter
almonds an aldehyde, oil of wintergreen an ethereal salt, etc.; -- called also volatile oils in distinction from the fixed or nonvolatile.
That said, we now know that an essential oil is the essence of the plant. It is what makes a particular plant a particular plant. "A rose by any other
name would smell as sweet . . . " because of it's essential oil. Of course, that's only a small part of the entire Aromatherapy process. After the oils are
harvested they have to be maintained. Essential oils are volatile, remember. This means they evaporate quickly. While this is ideal for inhalation, it
poses problems in other delivery methods. In order to overcome this a carrier oil is used. A carrier, or base, oil is obtained, usually, from vegetables or
plant seeds. Examples include sweet almond, grapeseed, apricot kernel, avocado pear oil, and sesame oil. In addition to aiding in the preservation of
the essential oils, the carrier oil also dilutes the essential oil. One drop of essential oil may be all that's called for in a recipe but it won't cover much
ground. When mixed with a carrier oil, the essential oil may then be readily applied to the body -- covering considerably more area and absorbed
through that much more of the skin.
Baths, body oils, and massages are just a few methods in which essential oils are ideally used in Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the treatment of a
condition or affliction through the use of scents. Our nose is probably the most powerful tool we use. It's directly connected to the nervous system --
to the extent that it's basically an exposed part of the nervous system itself! Susan Worwood -- a member of the International Federation of
Aromatherapists and the Aromatherapy Trades Council, in her book Essential Aromatherapy, explains that "aromatic molecules float up the
nostrils and come into contact with nerves extending from the olfactory bulbs, and ending in two small, sticky patches at the tip of the nasal cavity.
When the aroma molecule hits receptors in these nerve-rich patches, it sets off a reaction that results in brain activity. This phenomenon has been
observed through brain scans and other imaging techniques."
She continues by saying, "the part of the brain that most directly responds to olfactory stimulus is the limbic system, which corresponds to our feelings,
memories, stored learned response, and emotions. The limbic system is the most ancient part of the brain, the central core over which the cerebral
cortex lies. When aromatic messages reach the limbic system they are processed instantly and instinctively. This is why aromas are so powerful. They
can make us behave in particular ways without us even knowing what we are doing." I know it works for me. Whenever I smell gardenias, I am
reminded of my childhood home where I had a gardenia bush just outside my bedroom window. On the same token, whenever I smell a particular
perfume that an old girlfriend use to wear, I feel a certain resentment as memories are triggered that . . . well never mind.
When did this whole thing start, anyway?
The term "Aromatherapy" was coined in early part of the twentieth century by Ren�-Maurice Gottefoss� -- a French chemist working on using essences
in the cosmetic field, according to Robert B. Tisserand's book, The Art of Aromatherapy. Tisserand quotes Gottefosse's first usage of the term,
"The French cosmetic chemists are concerned that the natural complexes should be utilised as complete building units in this instance without being
broken up. Dermatological therapy would, thus, develop into 'Aromatherapy', or a therapy employing aromatics in a sphere of research opening
enormous vistas to those who have started exploring it."
However, the concept of treating with scents and oils has been around since at least the days of the ancient Egyptians. There have been papyrus
discovered that documented the use of oils for bathing and scenting the pharaohs. Throughout history there have been documented instances of oils
being used to treat afflictions. Aromatherapy is even evident in a children's nursery rhyme: "Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies . . .". This
little ditty referred to the effects of the plague and the flowers people carried to mask their foul smell (if you subscribe to the folklore). But even before
the Ancient Egyptians fancied a floral bath, ancient man would have had to have known which plants were toxic and which were edible by the smell
they gave off -- or you and I would not be here today.
And today Aromatherapy and essential oils elicit the skeptical minds of scientists, like the apothecary of old. Technologies are developing at an
alarming rate and better methods for obtaining and delivering the oils are always evolving. As a result, this nearly timeless practice is finding renewed
life in many facets of modern society, from elaborate diffusers pumping pleasing scents into the air of businesses to personal aroma-cards that
quickly ease the tribulations of the weary traveler. Many people are discovering, or rediscovering, what the Cantonese grandmother's ancestors
knew ages ago: Nature provides the cure. We just have to look.
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