It's an absolute pleasure to have Faye Willmott, Co-Founder of Amour Natural along to share her expertise and knowledge of essential oils. I have known Faye for most of my adult life, our paths first crossed when we both lived and worked in Bristol. We were studying Nutrition (although at different colleges) and our shared passion for all things wellbeing have enhanced our friendship. Thank you so much Faye for sharing your knowledge with us.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy, in a nutshell, is a holistic healthcare system that uses essential oils to enhance health, alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life - physically, mentally and emotionally.
The International Federation of Aromatherapists describes aromatherapy as a way to “promote health, relieve sickness and alleviate a variety of medical conditions”.
How does aromatherapy work?
Aromatherapy works by using essential oils extracted from plants to create changes in our bodies.
Essential oils create change in our bodies by:
1) Reacting with hormones, enzymes, and other molecules in our bloodstream (pharmacological)
2) Affecting our memory, moods, emotions, and overall mental state (psychological)
3) Influencing the body’s systems to create an effect, for example relaxing or stimulating (physiological)
The therapeutic actions of essential oils include:
“anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-neuralgic, anti-rheumatic, anti-spasmodic, anti-venomous, anti-toxic, anti-depressant, sedative, nervine, analgesic, hypotensol, hypertensol, digestive, expectorating, deodorising, granulation-stimulating, circulatory-stimulating and diuretic and much more besides”
Worwood, V Fragrant Pharmacy p 6
How do we use essential oils?
We use essential oils either by inhalation, applying to the skin, or by taking them orally.
Inhalation uses our powerful sense of smell, where the aromatic molecules stimulate the limbic system in the brain. This affects our emotions, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory and hormones.
When inhaled, essentials oils also enter the blood via the capillaries in the respiratory system, which carries the aromatic molecules around our body.
Applying essential oils to the skin (always diluted in a carrier oil) means the oils can move through the layers of skin and enter the blood stream. The benefits of topical application are further enhanced when combined with massage.
Taking essential oils internally means the molecules enter our body via the digestive system., being absorbed through the digestive mucosa before entering our blood stream. In the UK, we don’t advise internal use except in very specific and acute conditions. It is often safer and more effective to inhale the aromatic molecules or absorb them through the skin.
Is there any proof that aromatherapy works?
As well as thousands of years of individual experience and anecdotal stories, there have been many peer-reviewed research studies published on aromatherapy.
The first clinical trial of aromatherapy was in 1887, which showed that essential oils have the ability to kill the micro-organisms that cause glandular and yellow fever.
There is a plethora of studies on sites such as The Lancet, BMJ (British Medical Journal), RCCM (Research Council for Complementary Medicine) and Pubmed.gov, and in journals such as the IFA’s Aromatherapy Times journal.