In aromatherapy there are two ways that essential oils can enter the body to work therapeutically: inhalation and absorption into the blood stream.
Essential oils have three distinct modes of action:
1) They initiate chemical changes in the body when the essential oil enters the bloodstream by reacting with hormones and enzymes
2) They have a physiological effect on the systems of the body
3) They have a psychological effect when the odour of the oil is inhaled
The science and physiology of smell – Olfaction
The term olfaction derives from the past participle of the Latin olfacere, which means “to smell”.
Our senses are heightened by the presence of smell. The scent of a flower may bring pleasure, or the smell of debris or noxious gases may warn about danger. It is our sense of smell that can affect our behavior, desires and sometimes illness. Early cultures used aromatherapy in both spiritual and medicinal ways to ‘cure’ both physical and mental diseases. Throughout history, fragrances have been used to stimulate the unconscious mind by Greek philosophers and practitioners to transform a person’s emotional state. Essential oils and aromatherapy may be used to involve feelings of positivity and wellness based on their individual properties.
Scents we find pleasurable (such as lavender or rose) may have a positive effect on our psychological wellbeing through:
- Increased memory and cognition
- Higher self-esteem
- Mood improvement
- Heightened emotions
- Reduced stress