An Introduction to Aromatherapy and Essential Oils
Posted on October 10th, 2016
Guest post by Sophia Stirling
Experiencing severe illness at the age of 20, Sophia was introduced to Aromatherapy and Yoga whilst recovering and since then has not gone a morning without the smell of a beautiful plant oil.
After making a full recovery Sophia began her healthcare journey studying Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Science at Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London. Followed by further training at the Sivananda Ashram where she attained her yoga teaching qualification and developed her practice. She says “I believe my dharma is to share these ancient tools of self healing for others to benefit. The reason I share this is because if I can do this, trust me, so can you!”
Meeting Sophia recently, we quickly got talking about her keen interest in aromatherapy, something I know very little about. I found her personal story relatable and wondrously inspiring. It’s such a pleasure to share her beautiful words here, and a topic to which I owe far more attention.
There is a smell that makes the hairs on the back of you neck rise or causes you to sigh a deep breath of relief. Think of those Sunday mornings you’ve spent smelling bacon cooking in your kitchen and somehow miraculously you are pulled from your bed despite the horrendous hangover from the night before. This is all part of the magic that is Aromatherapy.
Our sense of smell plays a crucial role in our wellbeing, and instinctively decides what we are drawn to and what we are repulsed by. I would encourage you to delve into this internal knowledge and spend time around aromas that bring a sense of wellbeing and balance in the body. My personal preference has always been within the Sage family, in particular Salvia Sclerea (Clary Sage), which I use in a bath blend or burning by my bed in the evening.
Treat yourself to some Neal’s Yard Clary Sage.
Essential oils are a volatile plant substance that easily cross the blood-brain barrier and resonate with the limbic system. They have a profound effect on the Hypothalamus and as a result are deeply connected with our emotional and sexual wellbeing. The Hypothalamus regulates many activities in the body, perhaps most importantly in terms of the therapeutic benefit is that on the central nervous system.
We live in such a chaotic and busy time, as soon as you step out of your home in the morning; subconsciously we are stimulated from every angle. Our sympathetic nervous system kicks into action and causes an automatic stress response in the body that most the time we are completely unaware of. Due to recent research we now know the damaging effects of an overactive sympathetic response, for example the shortening of life expectancy.
Aromatic plants have been used for their wide variety of healing purposes since the beginning of civilization, from insomnia, eating disorders, digestive complaints, breathing difficulties, hormone imbalances to muscular aches and pains. Frankincense has been used since Ancient Egyptian times in beauty products, due to is cytophlactic and rejuvenating effects. In 1937 that the term aromatherapy finally got its name, from Rene – Maurice Gattefosse, who discovered that after seriously burning his hand that lavender oil had remarkable healing effects. Lavender and Frankincense are my go to oils if I’m a little red from the sun, a few drops in an Aloe Vera gel cools and calms the skin immediately.
Essential oils can be extracted from differing parts of a plant, for example ginger is taken from the root of the plant and therefore has a grounding effect. In more esoteric texts essential oils are described as the life and soul of a plant or the chi/prana that resides within. It is interesting to note that olfactory neurons (how we perceive smell) are the only neurons to be regenerated in the body throughout life. As we evolve we will be drawn to different smells, as homeostasis is something the body is always trying to achieve. When we begin to heal we will notice that we are instinctually drawn away from oils that resonate with the physical illness and towards oils that connect us more with the internal peace that can be found within us all.
One of the most beneficial ways to receive aromatherapy is through a massage, as well as gaining the therapeutic qualities from the oils we receive many effects from the massage for example increasing circulation and relaxing the central nervous system. Why not try taking half an hour out of your week to truly indulge yourself in a bath. Spend time creating a relaxing environment, burning candles, playing soothing music, (Deva Premal is fantastic!) and trying out one of these bath blends below.
Use a base of 30ml of almond, sunflower, Jojoba or Wheatgerm oil add 15 drops of essential oil (this will create a blend that can be used 3 times)
Muscular aches and pains
If you have sensitive skin, suffer from epilepsy or are pregnant please use just 6 drops total and only use Lavender, Tea Tree and Roman chamomile (contact me for other oils that can be used)
For more information on how you could benefit from Aromatherapy in general or with specific conditions do not hesitate to contact Sophia Steiling (firstname.lastname@example.org), or visit her site.