Self-Care Challenge (Day 47): Relaxing With Aromatherapy

AromatherapyA little over a year ago, I received a thoughtful gift from a friend (thanks Kimberly!) and it opened up a whole new world for me. Since then, lavender essential oil and shower tablets have become mainstays in my home.

I had always been skeptical that smell-goodies could really produce physical responses. Sure, flowers smell good and most people like them, but not necessarily because they have physical health benefits. But there is some evidence that aromatherapy has physiological merit.

Aromatherapy is a complementary and alternative therapy that has been defined as “the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.”

While aromatherapy research is scant, most of the studies have examined use in healtcare settings as a means of reducing stress and anxiety during medical procedures. One study showed that women who were exposed to orange essential oil during labor experienced less anxiety than those who weren’t. And another study in 2012 suggested that lavender essential oil may have a small to moderate benefit on sleep. Most of the studies were very small, which makes it difficult to apply their results in a broad sense, but some caregivers see aromatherapy as an inexpensive treatment for patients who feel it is effective.

Like any botanical, essential oils can produce allergic reactions in some people, but for the most part there are very little risks associated with them when used according to product instructions.

Regardless of the scientific evidence supporting their tangible health benefits, I enjoy essential oils for their aromatic qualities alone. Aromatherapy is just one way to enhance relaxation; each of us must determine for ourselves which techniques and modalities work best.

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