(This article was originally published in The Daily Star, Bangladesh's top-rated globally-syndicated newspaper.)
I believe that my love for aromatherapy started when I was a child. My very first memory is the smell of rosemary oil each night when my mother used to tuck me in to bed and kiss me on the forehead. As she bent close to my face, I could smell a fresh and invigorating aroma that engulfed me. That particular fragrance instilled a feeling of security and love in me. I used to think that this aroma was my mother’s natural body odor. But when I didn’t find that smell for a few nights in a row, I started to miss it. It made me feel betrayed, as if she had deprived me of something wonderful. One night, I told my mother that I was missing that enchanting smell. She was confused and did not understand what smell I was referring to, but as we talked more she understood, and with a smile explained that the aroma comes from her using rosemary oil on her temples. She explained her need to use it because of her constant headaches that appeared almost every evening. She said that she used it because it is all-natural and that it relieved her pain. As much as I felt bad for her suffering of the headache, the truth was I also missed the fresh and uplifting scent of rosemary. It started my exploration into aromatherapy long after my childhood.
Aromas play a vital role in our life. From waking up to the smell of coffee, until nighttime with the minty smell of toothpaste, we are surrounded by many smells and aromas.
We develop a sense of natural affinity for some fragrances, and some may not appeal to us at all. Accordingly, my love for aroma began with the smell of one of the nicest essential oils which is not only full of aroma but has enormous healing qualities as well. Gradually I, like everyone else interested in aromatherapy, found out about a wide variety of plants and shrubs, flowers and herbs that have a lot of medicinal, stress-relieving and therapeutic values.
In today’s hyper-connected and fast-paced age, stress is a major cause of many harmful diseases in our body. One of the natural ways to be de-stressed and to elevate our mood is to use essential oils as a method of aromatherapy.
Most essential oils are produced by steam distillation of plant materials. Aromatherapy is the use of pure essential oils produced from botanical material, not scented body care lotions or creams that use cheap synthetic fragrances. Once a person learns the knowledge on how to use certain oils it is easy for them to discover many different ways to heal using these varied methods.
Inhalation and application are the two main ways essential oils are used in aromatherapy. Inhalation can be as simple as putting few drops on a tissue and holding it close to the nose, using the aroma as a room spray or through steam inhalations to gain the therapeutic value from it. Also, after diluting it in a measured way these essences can be worn as healing perfumes. Application of essential oils to the skin requires dilution first. Essential oils can be used into massage oil, lotion, cream, soap, shampoo and many more ways so that the products can be applied to the skin. Some therapeutic applications may be in the form of compresses, baths, foot massage etc. Mainly the oils need to be incorporated into a person’s life in a manner which brings comfort by pushing the tension and stress away.
There are many options for using aromatherapy, but one has to like the fragrance in order to use it any further. A smell may be appealing for one person and obnoxious to another. It is better to use essential oils that smell best for the person using it. Smelling good quality essential oils is an adventure. The fragrances bring up memories and associations unique to each individual. According to the scientific analysis the reason essential oils have an effect on our mind, mood and emotions may be because they enter into our brain through our noses that generate reactions in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system then directly influences our nervous, endocrine and immune systems.
While researching more on my favorite essential oil rosemary, I learned a substantial amount of necessary information from reading the materials written by Beverly Hawkins. Ms. Hawkins describes the origin of Rosemary: “It originates in the Mediterranean but now grows throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and California. The name comes from the Latin ‘ros marin us’ meaning ‘rose of the sea.”
I learned and later experienced that it is a pale yellow oil that occurs through steam distillation from the flowering herb. Rosemary is a middle note. It blends well with other essential oils such as basil, cedar wood, citrus, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, pine, cinnamon and some more. The most interesting findings for me are the healing abilities of rosemary. This fantastic shrub has analgesic, antidepressant, antioxidant and antiseptic properties in it. It is a circulatory stimulant shrub, has digestive fungicidal and many more beneficial properties in it. Depending on the need of the person it can be used as a face mask, bath or in massage oils. Along with many other health benefits it also promotes hair growth and removes dandruff. The analgesic properties in it help in rheumatism, muscular aches and pains when used in massage. Also, the stimulant and anesthetic possessions in it helps with physical exhaustion, headaches and migraines, mental fatigues and nervous exhaustion.
However, like any other essential oils or medicines it also has its contraindications. This oil should be avoided in case of epilepsy, high blood pressure and during pregnancy. Since it is stimulating it should have been avoided when the body needs sleep. Pure essential oils are strong and should not be used directly without dilution. Rosemary oil should be diluted properly with carrier oils or lotions before it can be used.
Perhaps the most significant uniqueness of aromatherapy is that essential oils offer a broad range of healing besides just curing our physical body. They have a profound effect on the psychological level. This makes the use of essential oils superior to other remedies.
However, now I know why my mother used to love applying rosemary oil to heal her headaches. She must have found a bonding with the aroma because it healed her naturally. In the journey of life, I experienced many essential oils but until today my love for rosemary has not changed a bit. I still find it as invigorating as I did when I discovered it in my early childhood.