Aromatherapy For The Holidays and All Year Long

This time of year there are so many lovely aromas.  The freshness of evergreen boughs, the delicious and welcoming scents of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg coming from warmed cider, the alluring smells of home baked cookies and the heavier scent of wood burning in the fireplace.  Each of these aromas has the ability to bring back memories, make your mouth water, or even help you to relax and breath deeper.  This fascinating effect is called aromatherapy. 

The roots of Aromatherapy can be traced back more than 3,500 years before the birth of Christ, to a time when the use of aromatics was first recorded in human history.  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used aromatherapy baths and scented massage. In fact he used aromatic fumigation to rid Athens of the plague.   During World War II, a French army surgeon named Dr. Jean Valnet used essential oils as antiseptics.   Aromatherapy, by definition, is the use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.  However, I feel it extends beyond this definition.  Is there anyone who does not react favorably to the smell of bread baking, or sugar cookies fresh from the oven.  For me the smells of the holiday season bring back happy memories of baking in the kitchen with my family.  Making sweet breads and cookies for neighbors and friends.  Then later in life, I made cinnamon rolls with my children to give to our neighbors.  To this day the smell of warm cinnamon brings a warm feeling to my heart and a recollection of certain dear neighbors.  The secret to aroma therapy's therapeutic effects is in the quality of the oil.  Some less expensive oils smell nice but they don't trigger the same response in the brain as a more pure oil.  So when selecting essential oils remember the old saying, "You get what you pay for."  This is particularly true with essential oils because it is costly to process the oils properly allowing them to retain their healing qualities and remain at an optimal concentration.  There are three main uses for essential oils, aromatic use, topical use and internal use.  However, there are few companies that produce a high enough quality of oil that a person can safely take them internally.  You need to make sure they are 100% natural without fillers for the oils to have a lasting shelf life and to be as effective as possible. Lavender is used for all things calming.  It can be diffused into a room or used topically to sooth skin and nerves.  It will help people to relax and sleep better when rubbed on their feet.  Lemon is used to clean, freshen and uplift.  Add to a drop to honey for a sore throat, diffuse in a room to neutralize odors, use a few drops in water to clean, or take internally in water as a detoxifier. Peppermint cools and invigorates.  Use with lemon in water for a healthy mouth wash or as a laxative.  Inhale deeply to invigorate the lungs, diffuse in a room to lift spirits, apply to sore muscles, or apply with lavender to neck and forehead for headache relief.  A tiny drop on the tongue or a few drops rubbed into the stomach area will help relieve nausea or gas pains.  Melaleuca is a first aid for skin.  It can be applied to skin blemishes and rashes as part of a daily cleansing program.  You can also add a drop to shampoo and work into the scalp and hair.  Applying it to feet and nail beds after showers or working out can help with athlete's feet.  Frankincense  is a great cleanser and antiseptic for minor cuts, bites or sores.  Use with lavender on neck and head to relieve stressful feelings.  Take internally in empty gel capsule to enhance immune system.  Defuse to lift spirits or mood. Myrrh has a warm and spicy aroma.  Use it topically rubbed into throat and chest for sore throats or bronchitis.  Take internally in a capsule to enhance the immune system.  Or diffuse for a feeling of rejuvenation and energy. Cinnamon is warm and stimulating and is used as a comforting oil during the cold season. A strong antiseptic, cinnamon oil has a cleansing effect, as well as a lovely fragrance. Traditionally it is used topically as an anti-inflammatory agent. Because the use of essential oils in aroma therapy can be dangerous if used in appropriately and some oils' use is prohibited during pregnancy you should consult a professional or study the oils in depth prior to use.   May you each enjoy the scents of the season even if just to smell them and feel connected to something greater than yourself, no matter your religion, your race or creed.   

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