If the day and night are such that you greet them with joy and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet scented herbs – that is your success. All nature is your congratulations.” Henry David Thoreaux.

The use of pure essential oils from plants dates back many centuries, and history of aroma therapy is in many ways part of the history of herbal medicine as a whole. The Arabic countries are usually credited with first discovering the process of distillation of oils about a thousand years back. It then spread to India and then the west. In modern times much research has taken place on this – from perfumery applications to medicinal uses.

Highly concentrated extracts, essential oils thus need to be treated with respect and care. Preferably used sparingly – large doses not only increase immunity and reduce effectiveness, they can prove irritating and even toxic to the skin – a large part of their effect on our moods and emotions occurs through our sense of smell.

When we breathe in air, the aroma molecules are translated into signals by the receptor cells in the nose. This signal is sent to the olfactory bulb and then on to the limbic and hypothalamic parts of the brain. Although not scientifically proven, it is believed that the essential oil aroma activates the `pharmacy’ within our brains – neurochemicals as seretonin, endorphins etc. Which are `words’ that our brain uses to communicate with our nervous and other body systems. Thus the aroma of a calming oil would cause release of seretonin – a euphoric aroma.

Relief from pain and other physical effects are also experienced when these neurochemicals are released. Studies done on effects of essential oils on brain waves have shown that a rhythm exhibiting calmness was produced when a oil with sedative potential was inhaled and a stimulating aroma caused an alert response. Our minds can thus play an important role in our well being.

Aroma therapy thus works through the brain, through the mind and through the emotions e.g the tender yellow flower of the Ylang Ylang tree is considered so worthy of love that it is placed on wedding beds in Indonesia. Just as to calm your mind you need to close your eyes and feel the lush coolness of an immense forest filled with cedars, trees of frankincense and sandalwood through deep breaths of the lovely, fresh scent of those trees.

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