The world of aromatherapy can be a confusing one: Essential oils, the power of plants and flowers, and products that have the ability to directly effect the body start to swirl around in obscurity, often leaving the nonversed grasping for answers. We spoke to the experts who shared five surprising things you didn’t know about aromatherapy—but should.
It’s a very, very old practice.
According to Kathy Phillips, creative director and founder of This Works, aromatherapy is all about the use of essential oils combined, ideally with massage, and the use of it dates back thousands of years. “Even Egyptians like Cleopatra used aromatherapy for well-being and beauty.”
It works in an incredibly interesting way.
At the heart of it, the whole aromatherapy process works on the olfactory sense. “Tiny molecules of odor act on the nerves and can influence mood and state of mind. They are absorbed through the sense of smell and through the skin,” explains Phillips. “Essential oils also have antibacterial and antiviral properties, so they work to strengthen the immune system.”
It’s really a prescription—not a one-size-fits-all solution.
While you’ve probably heard that certain essential oils are great for certain things, according to certified aromatherapist Kayla Fioravanti, it’s not as simple as saying “use this for that.” She explains that it’s linked to a variety of factors, including memory, emotions, hormones, sexuality and heart rate. “The neurochemicals and endorphins that essential oils trigger can stimulate, sedate, relax, produce gratifying sensations, restore emotional equilibrium, or cause euphoria, which explains why essential oils bring about a mental or physical change,” says Fioravanti. Phillips adds, “Serious aromatherapy is something that has to be learned and practiced over time. All of the plants and combinations can be categorized, but it takes enormous time and expertise to know how and what to combine. It really is an art of prescription.”
But you need to be careful how you apply them.
Fioravanti warns that essential oils are incredibly potent and concentrated, so it is important that you never apply them directly to the skin. “But when they are used in personal-care products, they are perfectly safe,” she adds.
And…your body will tell you if an essential oil is not for you.
“In general, most people are repelled by the aroma of an essential oil that they body does not need or will not benefit them,” Fioravanti says. “The key to using aromatherapy-based products is to pay attention to your body and the initial reaction that you have to an aroma. If it is not pleasant to you, don’t use it.”