Essential Oils In Massage Therapy
Aromatherapy works on different levels, including the sense of smell, and through absorption via skin. During aromatherapy massage the tiny molecules in the essential oils penetrate through the skin. The molecules travel through the epidermis (the top layer of skin) reaching the dermis (a deeper layer of skin) and to the blood vessels allowing them to circulate through to all body areas; for example, the liver, kidneys and some muscle groups.
Alternative ways To Administer Essential Oils
The benefits of essential oils can be experienced, not only in massage, but also by way of oil diffusers and nebulizers. The olfactory system (sense of smell) is the only sensory system that reaches directly to the cerebral cortex without first going through the thalamus (a structure that sends signals to different sensory locations and manages consciousness and alertness). When smells enter the nose, they activate olfactory receptor cells called cilia that take the signal from the nose to the olfactory bulb where the odor gets perceived. In the olfactory bulb, mitral cells pick up the odor signal and transport it down the olfactory tract where the signal is distributed to different parts of the limbic system. The limbic system is most commonly known for maintaining balance within the body through the use of hormones and the processing of emotions, but is also used in handling higher order sensory processes and in the formation of memories.
The Link Between Sense Of Smell And The Brain
Our olfactory system is the only sense that is directly connected to the environment, has nerve cells that continuously regenerate throughout life. The nerve cell fibres are of a certain type, that retards the sensory signal from the environment to the olfactory bulbs (the structure that perceives smells), which is why there is a delay in our responses to smell, and why smells linger in our noses after the scent in the air has passed.
The olfactory system contains structures that are linked to the limbic system, the centre that is in control of our emotion and sensory processing. The amygdala is one such structure, which is involved with emotional processing, specifically fear; and the hypothalamus, responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body; and the hippocampus, which is integral in forming new long-term memories. The influence of the olfactory system on the limbic system explains why certain smells bring back such strong, vivid, emotional memories. The first time we come in contact with a special smell like the smell of grass or the smell of strawberries, it gets stored in our memories so the next time we smell that scent we are taken back to a summers day. This harmonious relationship of systems would also explain why certain odors could induce relaxation, effect heart rate, and many other physiological responses in the body.
Essential Oils Influence Our Emotions
Certain essential oils can and do create physiological, emotional, and psychological responses. Sandalwood for example, produces a sedating, relaxing feeling, which tends to be useful for treating people with anxiety, depression and insomnia, while lavender is an uplifting scent that is soothing and helpful in minimizing stress, anxiety, negative emotions, and insomnia. Rosemary has been known to clear the mind and stimulate memory, while clary sage is an uplifting odor that relaxes patients and helps with anxiety, depression, fatigue, and irritability. Lemon has been found to improve memory.