Is There Therapeutic Value in Using Essential Oils?
We all know the powerful refreshing smell of the citrus oils when we peel an orange or lemon. That aroma alone can often bring a smile to our face or a boost to our emotions. But is there more to this than just a pleasing smell? Yes, there really is.
Aromatherapy is sometimes called Essential Oils Therapy. It is the practice of using concentrated extracts from plants and other natural sources to relieve negative feelings such as depression or anxiety and to prompt the body to begin its own healing processes.
The use of a sauna can be a tremendously relaxing experience providing deep healing. So it would make sense to combine these two forms of healing. Before beginning of this addition to your sauna regimine, we first consider these basic but powerful statements from an authority on the subject:
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being.
The inhaled aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, where they travel through the bloodstream and can promote whole-body healing. Aromatherapy – The Balance & Harmony of Body and Mind
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, called naha, supports those above statements. They go even further to describe it as becoming more holistic and affecting the entire inner body:
Aromatherapy, also referred to as Essential Oil therapy, can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
So we can interpret his coining of the word “Aromatherapie” to mean the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing. As the practice of aromatherapy has progressed, over the years, it has adopted a more holistic approach encompassing the whole body, mind and spirit (energy). What is Aromatherapy | National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
How exactly does this practice accomplish all of this?
These compounds are extremely concentrated and are not used directly in full strength in most circumstances.
They are called essential oils as they are actually the essence of the fragrance of the plant. It is the root essence of the particular smell or aroma of the plant it was extracted from. As a result they are very concentrated. Just a few drops can fill the sauna cabin with the invigorating or relaxing smell.
For traditional steam saunas, the steps involve dissolving a few drops in a bucket or container of water. This water is then poured or spooned over the hot rocks or heater, misting the compounds into the air. This in then absorbed by the skin and inhaled.
Due to the deep and more rapid breathing that takes place in any sauna, caution is again warranted in using these sparingly. A little truly does go a long way in this instance. Never pour any concentrated oil directly on to any heater or heater rocks.
One additional benefit of using this in a steam sauna is due to the very nature of a steam environment. A traditional sauna, with its moisture and sweaty environment can become a breeding ground for various germs and bacteria. While regular cleaning is always recommended, using essential oils in the water used to produce the steam is a way to clean some of the bacteria. It helps to maintain some degree of a sterile environment.
So what are some of the Benefits and Effects of Aromatherapy?
There are many calming and healing benefits. However the primary is the stress reduction with relief of depression being listed as a close second. These are addressed in the following article:
Stress Relief: Perhaps the most widespread and popular use of aromatherapy is for stress relief. The aromatic compounds from many different essential oils are known as relaxants and can help to soothe your mind and eliminate anxiety.
This is what most people who perform aromatherapy at home use it for, since the mixtures are very simple and the research on this aspect of aromatherapy is very well-known and widely studied. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lemon oil, lavender, bergamot, peppermint, vetiver, and ylang ylang essential oils. Certain studies have also shown that lemon oil can improve mood and reduce outbursts of anger.
Antidepressant Capacity: Second to stress relief, aromatherapy is very commonly used to eliminate feelings of depression, and due to the very complicated side effects of pharmaceutical antidepressants, this is a very important function of aromatherapy. Benefits of Aromatherapy | Organic Facts
While the above post from a qualified site does list an antidepressant benefit from essential oil therapy, we caution and encourage anyone struggling with depression or any medical condition to see advice from a physician. If the depression continues or worsens, seek counsel or medical advice. Lavender, chamomile and peppermint have been shown to aid in minor relief of feelings of depression.
If you want to begin this regimen, it is advised to start very slowly with one drop. Some people react strongly to any smells and the concentrated nature of these demand caution. You may not want to add this to your sauna sessions.
However, if you do want to give it a try, Vital Health Saunas is one brand that has included aromatherapy as part of its units. They have added a small pad to the oxygen ionizer in their products. You can add a couple drops of your favorite scent to this small pad. They have hinted that a diffuser may be added to their models in the future.
However, many find this to be a great addition to the healing nature of infrared or even steam saunas. Give it a try. Start with a fragrance you know you will enjoy. Lemon, lavender and peppermint seem to be enjoyed by many.
Images courtesy aromatherapy.com, naha.org, organicfacts.net