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Aromatherapy and the Benefits of Essential Oils

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Have you ever tried aromatherapy? It is a holistic method of promoting wellness that uses aromatic materials extracted from plants. Flowers, herbs, roots, bark, and leaves are distilled or mechanically pressed to obtain their essence in the form of oil.

In 1997, the International Standards Organization (ISO) issued an official definition of essential oil as follows: a “product obtained from vegetable raw material, either by distillation with water or steam, or from the epicarp of citrus fruits by a mechanical process, or by dry distillation.” Scientific analysis has found that numerous essential oils have antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, and antioxidant properties.

Aromatherapy is generally implemented via inhalation or topical application. When the scent of an essential oil is inhaled, its chemical components bind to a smell receptor in the nose. From there, a signal is transmitted to the olfactory bulb that is located just above the nasal cavity and beneath the forebrain. The bulb sends olfactory information to various parts of the brain, including the limbic system, which supports the processing of emotions. Essential oils can also affect the hypothalamus, which creates feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine.

For a study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice, participants pinned a small bottle of 3% lavender oil to the clothing on their chests. The results showed that stress symptoms were significantly reduced for the nurses inhaling the fragrance compared to a control group, and the beneficial effect lasted for 3 to 4 days.

Let's discuss how you can give yourself an aromatherapy session at home by inhaling essential oils. One way is to prepare a bowl of steaming hot water in a sink and add a few drops of your chosen extract. Bend over the sink and breathe in deeply, with an optional towel over your head to trap extra moisture.

For Valentine's Day in 2008, Supreme Master Ching Hai recorded a cooking show and heated some lavender oil to complement the atmosphere of the meal. “And this is the aromatic burner. I put some aroma oil in it with water, and it's going to boil during your food, your meal, and it will help you relax also. This is lavender and water. You can buy it anywhere - it’s very relaxing and aromatic. Smells nice already! Smells nice. Everything smells nice.”
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