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Aromatic oils - Essences of Life

Sunday, 22 March 2009

aromatic oilsAromatic oils are essential plant oils that have a strong scent and curative properties. The history of the use of aromatic oils and plant extracts goes back for at least several thousand years. Today, there are approximately 300 essential oils that are used in different spheres of our life, including medicine, cosmetology and food industry.

We know about 50 families of plants the representatives of which can be used in the production of aromatic oils (say, Labiate family - mint, goose-tongue, thyme, lavender). Aromatic ether is extracted from certain parts of the plant. Oil is the source of virtually all of plants' active ingredients. Oils are accumulated in different parts of the plant: root (ginger), stem (trunk) or woody tissue (sandalwood, manuka), leaves (lemon, eucalyptus), inflorescence (rose) and fruit, where oil can be found in peel, pulp or in seeds.

A plant can give several types of oil, for example, bitter orange: the inflorescence gives Neroli oil (named in honor of the Italian princess who discovered the oil), the fruit peel contains Curacao oil and seed oil is extracted from the leaves, small fruits and seeds.

The healing properties of aromatic oils are absolutely different: some of them have soothing, relaxing effect, others tone up and stimulate. Each oil has its own inimitable fragrance and, therefore, its own, special effect and balm properties.

Chemical compounds of any essential oil are highly volatile and the mechanism of their effect upon the human body is the following: by affecting  nasal lining (at the moment when one feels their scent) they interact with transport proteins (G-proteins). These proteins distribute oil molecules in the body, carrying them to the sensitive receptors (peripheral sensors). As soon as aromatic substance is delivered to the receptor, stimulation (biologic massage) begins, affecting nervous regulation and cerebral functions. Functioning of every body system is gradually normalized, problems, if any, progressively recede.

This effect of aromatic oils created a basis to the therapeutic method that was named aromatherapy. This approach is in some way similar to homeopathic medicine - a subtle action of minimum amounts of balm substances, gradual onset rate, slow accumulation. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons contained in essential oils work more effectively if used on a regular basis.

Aromatic polycyclic hydrocarbons (compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) are the basic components of the aromatic oils. This group is subdivided into terpens and terpenoids.

In fact, most of the aromatic oils contain terpens (limonene, pinene, camphene, cadinene, caryophyllene, cedrene, dipentene, phellandrene, terebenthene, sabinene and myrcene, etc.), and these compounds have anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic and antiseptic properties.

A group of terpenoids includes ethers, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, alcohols (spirits) and oxides.

Ethers (lenalene acetate, geranyl acetate) have antifungal and relaxing properties.

Aldehydes (citral, citronellal and neral) also effect as sedative and anti-inflammatory agents.

Ketones are decongestants, they improve functioning of the mucous membranes, promote sputum discharge. Aromatic oils containing ketones are used for treatment of respiratory diseases.

Phenols (eugenol, thymol, carvacrol) have antibacterial and toning properties and may cause skin irritation.

Alcohols (spirits). The group includes linalool (found in lavender, aloe vera and rosewood), citronellol (rose, lemon, eucalyptus and geranium), geraniol (palmarose), borneol, menthol, nerol, terpineol, farnesol, vetiverol and cedrene. They act as antibacterial and antiviral products.

Oxides (cineol and eucalyptol) have a strong expectorative action.

Due to the fact that scientists have managed to decompose essential oils, the production of synthetic aromatic oils commenced. But the value of artificial products (in therapeutic and material sense) is not very high if compared to natural ones.

Aromatic oils: methods of application

Aromatic oils are applied individually and in different compositions. Depending on the properties of oils, there are various combinations: toning, relaxing, stimulating (aphrodisiac) antibacterial, etc.

Pure aromatic oils are not applied because they may cause dermal and mucosal irritation. Oils are usually mixed with water, fragrance-free massage oil, glycerine.

Several drops of aromatic oil may be added to the baths and nebulisers. Aromatic oils are used in massage procedures and aromatic lamps.

When using aromatic oils one should remember about intolerance and allergic diseases. Testing skin for allergies must be performed prior to using any oil. Apply a drop of oil to the skin of arm bend or behind the ear and watch the reaction in two hours. If there are no signs of allergic reaction, hyperemia, itching or any other discomfort, oil can be used.

Before application of any oil, learn about its effect. If you want to relax and apply oil with toning effect, the result would be converse.

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