Aromatherapy is the art of healing various physical n emotional disorders by inhalation or topical application of essential oils or pure essence from plant extracts. It aims to restore the balance and promote holistic living.
Essential oils have been used for more than 6000 years for healing. They were even used in World War I to treat injuries, burns, gun shots, etc. In 1910, the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé accidentally discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when his hand badly burned and in 1937, he coined the word Aromatherapy and published a book on the same.
Science behind Aromatherapy:
The senses namely sight, sound, touch and taste receive sensory data from the environment which is transferred through the nervous system to the brain. In case of smell, it is received by the receptors in the nose and the signal is transferred to the olfactory bulb which is part of the limbic brain. So, unlike the other four senses that travel to brain via the nervous system, the smell signal travels directly to brain. This is also why smell is a quick way to access certain parts of the mind with better precision and is said to be the direct connection between the brain and surroundings.
Aromatherapy in Indian tradition:
Be it as oils, extracts or live, the flowers & plants have almost the same essence. The very reason for the use of incenses, camphor, frankincense, ghee lamps, dhoops and flowers in Indian tradition is for their aromatherapy effects that promote holistic well-being.
Camphor/Karpur: It is made by distilling the bark and wood of the cinnamonum camphora tree. It is widely used in worship, homam & aarti. The strong fragrance released when camphor is burnt has healing properties.
- Camphor has antioxidant properties and helps prevent diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular disease & even cancer.
- It has antineuralgic, antispasmodic & anti-inflammatory properties that serves as painkiller for relaxing tired muscles, sprains, joints, cramps & spasms.
- It purifies the atmosphere by killing the bacteria & hence is good for the lungs & heart.
- It’s antimicrobial/insecticidal properties makes it an effective mosquito repellant.
In temples, when devotees place their palms on aarti plate and put the palms on nose, eyes & mouth, they absorb its medicinal benefits in addition to the benefits from inhaling its fragrance, directly.
Caution : Edible camphors are ideal. The synthetic camphors can never equate the qualities of the naturally occurring edible one.
Frankincense/Sambrani: It is a resinous dried sap harvested from Olibanum tree. Sambrani can also be benzoin resin or myrrh or mixture of the three. It is used in all big religious gatherings & festivals. This is also used in temples & burnt daily in the mornings of an ideal South Indian household to spread the aroma/smoke across every room. It is also used to dry the hair & naturally perfume the same as it has a distinct uplifting smell.
- This smoke is an effective cure for respiratory ailments.
- It has antiseptic and disinfectant properties that protects the skin, hair, scalp & private parts
- It’s anti-inflammatory & antiflatulent properties help in aiding digestion & skin eruptions.
- It keeps new born babies free from cough & cold and enhances sound sleep.
- It is an amazing antidepressant & sedative that relieves tension & anxiety
- It is anti-arthritic and is one of the main ingredients in several arthritic medications.
Caution : Organic or atleast natural frankincense to be preferred. Computer Sambranis that is widely mass marketed and trending may not be effective and will have adverse effects too.
Incense & Dhoops: Incense burning has taken place in India for thousands of years, and India exported the idea to China, Japan and other Asian countries. Even today, India is the world’s main incense producing country. In general incenses are said to relieve anxiety, freshen air & improve sleep quality. Unlike camphor and benzoin, incenses can be made from different ingredients and the benefits depends on the specific ingredients that it is made of. Few commonly used key ingredients are :
- lavender – improves sleep quality, promotes concentration, enhances hair regrowth & relaxes anxiety
- Jasmine – it has a stimulating effect, increases alertness, breathing rate and vigor. It uplifts mood and promotes a sense of well being.
- Rose – antidepressant, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, cholagogic, cicatrizant, depurative, emmenagogue, hemostatic, hepatic, laxative, nervine & stomachic
- Sandalwood – enhances mental clarity, boosts memory, aphrodisiac, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, antispasmodic, anti aging, relaxing & calming
Caution: There are incense sticks handmade of essential oils & natural extracts which are ideal. The commercial ones with synthetic ingredients may not serve the holistic purpose.
Ghee lamp: It is adviced to use ghee to light lamps in temples, home and homams instead of oils and ghee lamps were positioned as the most special.
- This is because 10g of cow ghee used in fire sacrifice produces one tonne of oxygen.
- The effect remains for 4 hours post burning whereas with oil it is just 20 minutes.
- It also kills bacteria in the air & purifies it
- Ghee has all the properties to fix skin disorders
Caution : Only pure ghee from a desi cow will have the above qualities. If they are preferably organic, the effect will be even better. The one from hybrid or jersey cows may not prove efficient.
Flowers: Prayers are never done without flowers be it home or temple in India. Women wear fragrant flowers on their hair and they are also kept in a beautiful arrangement in urulis in traditional Indian households. Flower is the reproductive part of the plant that has a lot of life force energy.
- They are proven to fix a lot of problematic behavioural traits like uncertainty, sharpness, workaholic nature, post delivery stress & hallucinations
- They elevate the mood, gives a feel good factor and keeps stress at bay.
- As mentioned above different flowers have different benefits.
- For the same reason, flowers of unpleasant scent, blood-red & black flowers, flowers with thorns aren’t used for worship.
Caution : Flowers that are home grown or from organic farming should be preferred. Others will have chemical pesticides & fertilisers and may be harmful.
There are lot more aromatherapy elements in Indian tradition namely the sandalwood paste, vibhuti(Bhasma), rosewater, etc.
Significance of Essential oils:
Einstein rightly said that everything in this world is energy. So one should use energy based products that are in alignment with us . The Vibrational energy of the essential oils is found to be the highest of any natural substances known.
The frequency of
Healthy human body: 62-70 MHz.
Human cells can start to change (mutate) when their frequency drops: below 62MHz.
frequency of body with cold or flu: 58 MHz
frequency when the death process begins: 20 MHz.
Frequencies of some foods measured as below:
dead foods such as hamburger & chicken – 3 to 5 MHz
raw almonds – 50 MHz
living greens such as broccoli and wheatgrass – 70MHz
Now, let’s checkout the measured frequencies of some essential oils:
Rose essential oil – 320MHz
Lavender essential oil – 118 MHz
Sandalwood essential oil – 96 MHz
so, products made with organic essential oils will be of the highest efficiency level.
My Experience: I have already blogged about the benefits of wearing jasmine in which aromatherapy was the basis. It’s been more than 3 months since I started wearing Jasmine every evening and the effect was worth it. The moment I came to know about these aromatherapy benefits, I started following them one by one. I made sure to light a handmade natural incense stick every evening n relax with a herbal tea. The observations are amazing I must say. Progress in Health can’t be evident in such a short interval but am sure prolonged usage will show noticeable difference. The psychological benefits were clearly evident though. Coming back from office after a hectic day & relaxing with an incense and herbal tea has proved to be so relieving, relaxing and pleasant. Infact I am able to get rid of the tired mind & body and refresh myself from deep within. One more thing that I have observed is the improvement in the quality of my sleep. Be it 6 or 8 hours, quality of sleep is what matters. This everyday routine has without a doubt, blessed me with a sound sleep. It has also kept my anxiety & stress at bay. To understand if it is only due to this, I experimented by not following it for a few days and the difference was obvious. I will start doing the ghee lamp & frankincense ritual soon. In the current mechanical lifestyle, these simple & pleasant additions to our routine will be a saviour in tuning the mind and body to strike a balance and lead a holistic lifestyle. All I can say is, try it for a month and witness the pure pleasure for yourself !
Offline – Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Salai team, Monad yoga team, Forest essentials consulting team
Online – sciencedirect.com, trontario.org, nuworldbotanicals.com
Books – Reference Guide for Essential Oils, by Connie and Alan Higley