Aromatherapy, administered as a therapeutic and healing procedure has always been an integral part of Ayurveda.
What is Aromatherapy?
It can be described as a comprehensive treatment system that aims to improve the health and general well-being of the patient by applying a high concentrated aromatic essences and oils.
Aromatherapy in Ayurveda treatment
Using different plant aromas has been applied for more than 5000 years in Ayurveda medical practice. There are many recipes in ancient Indian texts for the preparation and application of aromatic oils used to treat various diseases, to make cosmetic products and even for beauty procedures and mood improvement.
Why is Ayurveda so closely related to aromatherapy?
According to the Vedic Holistic Treatment System, the aromas we breathe have a significant impact on our body, emotions and mind and help balance our doshas.
Aromatic oils strengthen the immune system, making it resistant to harmful bacteria and viruses. They cleanse and open the energy channels, stimulating the circulation of energy in the nervous system and in the sphere of emotions and mind. However, you should know which aromatic oils are right for you and how to use them properly.
How do aromas work?
By inhaling a certain odor, aromatic molecules enter into the nasal cavity, stimulating nerve terminals that convert aromatic molecules into nerve impulses and send them to the limbic system where, depending on the type of aroma, different kinds of emotional reactions can be induced, and memories can be stimulated.
In addition to inhalation, aromatic oils can reach the body through rub into the skin (via Ayurveda massage). In this case, however, the oils are not used in concentrated form but are dissolved in base oils suitable for the purpose. By rubbing the oil into the skin, the fragrant molecules penetrate rapidly through the pores and reach directly to the lymphatic system and from there to all organs, improving their work and bringing relief and calming the whole organism.
There are multiple benefits of applying aromatherapy in Ayurveda because essential oils derived from plants are genuine herbal ingredients beneficial to our health. They can stimulate, relax, reduce pain, contribute to the proper functioning of our organs, awaken our senses, and achieve a perfect balance between our body and mind.
Very well, but what is essential oil?
Essential oils are aromatic (vaporous) ingredients of plant origin. They contain biologically active substances in their most concentrated form. Vaporous ingredients extracted from plants consist of alcohols, esters, ketones, terpenes, and other compounds which have different effects on the body.
Aromatic oils have psychotropic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, immunomodulatory, analgesic, antineoplastic and other properties.
In some plants, the concentration of essential oils is very high. These are the so-called spicy herbs that people have been using for thousands of years to enhance the protection of their own body.
Essential oils can be extracted from all parts of the plant. Flower oils often have a hypnotic, narcotic or relaxing effect on humans.
Resins, wood and bark contain warming essential oils that stimulate the circulation of fluids in the body. Leaves often have healing and cooling properties due to the high content of chlorophyll, whose composition is very close to that of hemoglobin. The roots have the so called terrestrial qualities of plants, and the essential oils derived from them can have a powerful strengthening effect. Aromatic essential oils derived from fruits have an expanding and stimulating effect.
The methods used for scents extraction from plants and fruits are mechanical and by distillation. The mechanical method is not often applied as it is quite labor-intensive (done by hand) and on the other hand the product that is extracted cannot be called essential oil but only an essence. Essential oils used in Ayurveda are prepared using the method of distillation.
Often, in addition to the essential oils in aromatherapy, other natural elements such as water, clay and others are added. The addition of such is of great importance as they allow essential oils to natural products perform their therapeutic function as best as possible.
How are essential oils used in Vedic Holistic Medicine?
Pure natural oils derived from plants are widely used in Ayurveda ranging from massages, acupressure with oils, inhalations, food additives to improve taste and refinement of food to room aromatization and cleansing the house of negative energy. The most common application of aromatic oils is found in balancing the doshas.
Balancing the doshas using aromatherapy
According to Ayurveda, the different flavors have a strong influence on the respective doshas, helping to balance them. For thousands of years, Vedic doctors have tried and combined different aromas that can help to quickly and easily balance each of the three doshas.
For Vata dosha, for example, aromatic oils that help balance have sweet, acidic, warm or heavy aromas such as bergamot, incense, orange, vanilla.
For the balance of Pitta dosha, aromas should be cool, soothing and sweet like ylang-ylang, lavender, jasmine, mint, sandalwood.
Kapha dosha needs cleansing, spicy, sharp and warming aromas such as cardamom, saffron, rosemary, camphor, incense.
What is the effect of some of the major types of oils applied in Ayurveda?
It has an anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect, improves digestion, helps with tachycardia, rejuvenates the skin, increases appetite. The anise essential oil has expectorant and softening effect, soothes and relieves migraine and dizziness.
It accelerates metabolism, nourishes hair and skin, heals chronic bronchitis, strengthens the immune system.
Removes toxins, helps with obesity and cellulite, strengthens the immune system and nails and has diuretic properties.
Lemongrass essential oil is an excellent antidepressant that improves mood and activity, and increases efficiency, concentration and memory. It has beneficial effects on the immune, circulatory system and metabolism. Relieves back pain, strengthens the connective tissue.
Helps with headaches, kidney infections and tumors, stimulates the thyroid gland. Butter is widely used in the perfumery industry being added to soap and other skin care products. In addition, lemongrass is a great remedy against mosquitoes and other insects.
It normalizes metabolic processes, helps against cellulite, has a diuretic effect, removes toxins, strengthens immunity, helps to whiten liver spots and freckles on the skin, relieves headaches.
Lemon oil has an antibacterial action, it tones the vegetative nervous system, relieves headaches, nausea, winding up. Stimulates immunity, especially in case of a flu epidemic. Its aroma helps to easily accept the difficulties and losses, promotes meditation.
Helps dealing with depression, migraine, insomnia, increases attention and concentration, reduces fatigue.
Relaxes the mind and nervous system, relieves headaches and fatigue, improves physical activity, normalizes heart rhythm.
Rose oil, if taken internally, has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, soothing and healing action (for diseases of the stomach, liver, etc.).
It relaxes the mind, exacerbates the intellect, creates a sense of pleasure, improves mood, stimulates creative inspiration, acts cooling in the hot days, improves the immune system and the resistive forces of the body, has antiseptic action, improves the functioning of the respiratory system.
Useful for injuries and bruises, helps with eczema and dermatitis. It relieves from insomnia, rejuvenates the skin, normalizes tension, harmonizes the nervous system, promotes and stimulates the desire for sex in women, improves the condition of the skin, is also used to treat tuberculosis and colds with loss of voice.
Relieves depression, improves mood, reduces nausea, dizziness. Cinnamon essential oil boosts metabolism, prevents weight gain, helps with cellulite, reduces hair loss, activates blood circulation, improves digestion.
It stimulates, strengthens the nervous system, improves blood circulation. Almond oil massage has a relaxing, warming and calming effect.
It is used to treat asthma, cough, sore throat, middle ear infections, inflammation of the urinary tract, liver and gallbladder, lungs, tuberculosis. It has a pain-relieving effect and helps in the treatment of neurosis and neurasthenia.
Used for colds, flu, bronchitis, rhinitis, removes mental fatigue, improves blood circulation, digestion, treats nausea. Antiseptic for internal use.
It has an antiseptic, expectorant effect.
Some curious facts…
Did you know that plant aromas have been known and used in Europe all the way back in the Middle Ages? There are preserved documents according to which the pharmacists used to prepare balms and potions applied in aromatization and beauty procedures.
The term “aromatherapy” was introduced by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé who, in 1928 during his experiments, accidentally discovered the properties of essential oils (known well in advance of many ancient cultures and applied for centuries by Ayurveda).
While working in his lab and trying to create a new perfume scent, the chemist accidentally burned his hand and reacted instinctively by dipping it into a nearby container full of lavender essential oil. His hand healed rapidly and thus Gattefossé understood that the medicinal properties of lavender oil are much greater than all synthesized preparations. After his accidental discovery, the chemist devoted his life to study essential oils and their therapeutic properties.
Despite the discovery of Gattefossé however, aromatherapy became popular only half a century after its discovery. In 1964, а French physician named Jean Valnet published his research paper “Aromathérapie” where he described aromatherapy as an alternative medicine based on the beneficial properties of essences and oils extracted from plants and spices.