Essential Oils, when used in Aromatherapy, enter the body systems through 2 different methods of absorption: through the lungs and through the skin.
Inhaling Essential Oils, draws the molecules of the essences and their therapeutic properties, through the respiratory system and into the lungs where they are absorbed by small air sacs contained in the lobes of the lungs, called alveoli. Alveoli have very thin walls and attached to them are capillaries, or tiny blood vessels. This is where the respiratory system meets the circulatory system and oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. Particles of Essential Oil molecules join the circulatory system here, by way of the capillaries, before traveling throughout the body imparting their therapeutic properties where needed.
It is believed by Aromatherapists that when Essential Oils are applied to the skin in carrier oil or other medium, they are absorbed through its surface and mix with sebum, a natural oil made by the body, found in hair follicles, which helps transport tiny fragments - components of the Essential Oil molecules - to the blood stream and lymph and are circulated throughout the body. Some people are skeptical about this assertion but there is a simple way you can test the theory. Cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side of the clove on the bottom of your foot. In 1-2 hrs, the scent of garlic will be on your breath due to the garlic's oil having circulated through your system.
Applying Essential Oils to the skin with Aromatherapy massage, helps work the oils into the skin and muscles so that the recipient receives the therapeutic benefits of both Essential Oils and massage. Both can help a great deal with certain aspects of overall health, including improved lymphatic circulation and drainage and a reduction in tension. Furthermore, the Aromatherapy massage we use today, as developed in the 1950's by Marguerite Maury of Austria, includes an individual prescription of Essential Oils and carrier oils, combined specifically for the needs of each client. Marguerite worked in the beauty industry borrowed from the ancient Tibetan techniques to develop the way that Certified Aromatherapists apply these oils to the body. It includes gentle work alongside the spine, touching on the nerve centers and is very effective as a treatment for many common ailments.
The methods of absorption as described above, help explain some of the pathways essential oils take on their journey within systems of the body, but they do not tell the whole story. The word, Aromatherapy, suggests our sense of smell plays a large part in the different treatment methods that use Essential Oils to affect change and indeed, it does.
The medical term for our sense of smell is Olfaction. Everything you smell travels through your nose and up the passage ways, (nostrils), to the olfactory bulb, which leads to the very core of your brain, the location of the Limbic system. The Limbic system sits just on top of your brain stem and occupies space on both sides of the brain. It is the oldest part of the human brain and is made up of a complex set of structures, which concern themselves with many of the functions related to survival of the body, including regulating temperature, thirst and hunger, response to pain, feelings of anger, aggressive reactions, levels of pleasure and sexual satisfaction. The Limbic system is is responsible for our emotions and memory formation. It is no wonder then, that when you smell a familiar fragrance, you can easily be transported in your mind, back to a time and place in an instant, with all the sensations, sights, sounds and feelings, that you experienced the first time you smelled that scent.
Essential Oils can play a role in helping you alter feelings and emotions. Certain fragrances, such as citrus, are known to evoke an elevated mood and others like chamomile invite a sense of calm, while peppermint is energizing and sandalwood, more grounding. Often times, we diffuse Essential Oils in the air to help set or enhance an emotional tone, or sensation we desire.
It's our opinion at HopeWind Health that using Essential Oils is one of life's greatest pleasures, so go ahead and enjoy!