Aromatherapy, myth or evidence-based science?
Since I first heard about it I wonder what was that about, aromatherapy? Is it worth trying? Will that work and for which ailments?
Well, to find out and answer to these and many more questions I had a look at medical libraries and scientific trials on aromatherapy and their results, and you know what, after writing this article the way I thought about aromatherapy completely changed, and so you will I hope.
For those of you that have already tried it this article will give you an insight into those treatments and essentials oils about which you didn't know yet, and for those who didn't it will give you a perfect excuse to try it.
Aromatherapy is one of the complementary and alternative medicines used to treat various diseases and symptoms because essential oils have many kinds of pharmacological actions including anti-microbial, sedative, analgesic, spasmolytic and estrogen or steroid hormone-like effects, etc. . Image left: Themed herb pots -Aromatherapy- by Leonora Enking under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Common name: Lavender, English lavender, common lavender, true lavender, narrow-leaved
Essential oils are in fact everything but oils. Essential oils do not contain any fatty acids that will eventually justify to define them as "oils", they are purely and simply highly concentrated plant extracts that exert powerful cosmetic and medicinal properties.
Essential oils have been traditionally used to reduce body tension and emotional stress, being the most common types of essential oils are bergamot, lavender, and geranium. Some essential oils have been found to exert a sedating effect, such as bergamot, lavender, chamomile, and other essential oils [2,3].
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (CAM)
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is defined by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States (NCCAM) as a group of diverse medical and health-care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine .
As such, aromatherapy falls into that category, as indeed, it makes use of non-conventional methods used in traditional medicine.
In spite, it is not the only way, the most commonly used method to practice aromatherapy is using essential oils from plants. An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants.
Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove.
An oil is "essential" in the sense that it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant .
MOST COMMON ESSENTIAL OILS
The most common essential oils as lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus, are distilled from raw plant material, consisting of the flowers, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seeds, or peel, is put into an alembic (distillation apparatus) over water.
As the water is heated, the steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the volatile compounds. The vapors flow through a coil, where they condense back to liquid, which is then collected in the receiving vessel , more or less the same as it is done with the alcoholic beverages that are done using this traditional method.
AROMATHERAPY FOR MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
Eight-week massage showed a significantly lower total menopausal index than that in wait-listed controls.
These findings suggest that aromatherapy massage can be an effective treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, and pain in climacteric women [2,5]. Image right: #3219 by Gerold Schneider under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).
AROMATHERAPY WITH BERGAMOT OIL FOR ANXIETY, MILD DEPRESSION, AND PAIN
Several studies suggest that neurotransmitters 5-hydroxytryptamine and dopamine may be modulated with the anti-anxiety effect by essential oils from rose, lavender, lemon and peppermint [9,10,11]. Other popular anxiolytic oils include:
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia),
- Rose (Rosa damascena),
- Orange (Citrus sinensis),
- Bergamot (Citrus aurantium),
- Lemon (Citrus limon),
- Sandalwood (Santalum album),
- Clary sage (Salvia sclarea),
- Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), and
- Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.)
Aromatherapy is especially for populations that work under high stress. Elementary school teachers are a high-stress working population in Taiwan.
In a study, fifty-four elementary school teachers were recruited to evaluate aromatherapy performance on stress reduction. Bergamot essential oil was used for aromatherapy spray for 10 minutes. Results showed that there were significant decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, .
Bergamot essential oil was also effective for anxiety reduction of mild depression subjects, and it also had the effect of reducing pain in cancer subjects [2,6].
SEDATING and ANTI-STRESS EFFECTS OF SOME ESSENTIAL OILS
- Chamomile, and other essential oils [2,3].
In spite Lemon oil is not one of the most commonly used essential oils when looking for anti-stress and sedating effects, at least one study shows how after examining the anti-stress action of the essential oils of lavender, rose, and lemon, it was observed that Lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect, confirming that lemon oil possesses anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects .
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