Using essential oils to soothe various ailments is defined asaromatherapy. This therapy, parallel to what is known as traditional medicine, can bring numerous benefits to the body as a whole. Let's explore together the multiple virtues of aromatherapy.
A few words on essential oils.
Essential oils arevolatile essences extracted from aromatic plants. Among all the species found in the plant kingdom, only 4,000 contain essences and aromatic molecules. However, only a few hundred of them contain enough for us to extract essential oils with a significant yield.
In most instances, essential oils are derived from a distillation process using steam of the volatile aromatic compounds found in plants, with the exception of citrus essences which are obtained simply by cold pressing the fruit's peel.
Essential oils are substances that can be used preventatively, therapeutically, or for wellbeing. They lend themselves to various methods of administration:
Orally (requiring medical advice);
Through rectal administration (adopted in a medical context);
Through the dermal route (in skincare);
Through respiratory means (to enhance well-being).
Essential oils arecomplex mixtures combining different active principles (terpenes, alcohols, ketones, aldehydes...) that can potentially be allergenic, photosensitising or even neurotoxic. Whether taken orally, applied to the skin or inhaled, during the first trimester of pregnancy, essential oils should be avoided by pregnant women. Some should be avoided throughout the entire pregnancy while others can be used after the first 4 months.
Why use essential oils?
Each essential oil is unique in the sense that its biochemical composition is unlike any other. Aromatherapy can be effective in soothing a wide variety of ailments.
To boost the immune system or improve digestion, certain essential oils can be ingested. However, the use of an essential oil orally always requires prior medical advice. Furthermore, the essential oil must always be diluted and should never be ingested in its pure form. Oral administration is reserved for adults and children over the age of 7. Essential oils should only be taken for short periods, primarily to treat digestive and liver problems. It should be noted that some essential oils, such as peppermint, can also be used by inhalation, especially when one wishes to decongest the nasal passages and overcome a cold.
Primarily used through inhalation, certain essential oils are effective in soothing the nervous system and, more specifically, emotional issues related to feelings of anxiety, fear, and discomfort. They can also promote sleep onset and ensure restorative sleep. The respiratory route is favoured for calming the nerves as the nasal mucous membranes are made up of millions of nerve cells that allow aromatic molecules to diffuse to the brain.
Some essential oils are recognised for their moisturising, softening, nourishing, astringent, firming, and anti-acne properties. However, caution is advised, applying pure essential oil directly to the skin is not recommended. It is always better to dilute it in a vegetable oil.
Dosage recommendations vary depending on the essential oils, but generally, it is appropriate to mix 30 drops of essential oil into 50 ml of vegetable oil. The blend can be applied to all parts of the body, avoiding mucous membranes and the eye contour. In local application, this mixture can alleviate various skin problems (acne, redness, dryness...) as well as insect bites, knocks, bruises...
Caution! Some essential oils are photosensitising and it is advised not to expose oneself to the sun for at least 4 hours after application. Others can be allergenic. Always perform a preliminary test in the crook of your elbow.
Here is a list of essential oils containing allergenic molecules in significant quantities: aneth, angelica, bergamot, bergaptene-free bergamot, cajeput, cinnamon (bark), lemon, clove, coriander seed, rose geranium, fragrant inula, bay laurel, lemongrass, green mandarin, lemon balm, lemon myrtle, sweet orange, compact oregano, Spanish oregano, palmarosa, grapefruit, turpentine, exotic verbena, fragrant verbena.
Whether it's to combat scalp dandruff, hair loss, excess sebum, or even the dehydration of hair fibres, it can be relevant to incorporate a few drops of a carefully selected essential oil into your shampoo and/or hair mask, depending on your specific issue.
For instance, to purify the scalp and eliminate dandruff, tea tree essential oil, as well as lavender essential oil and palmarosa essential oil, are recommended.
Regarding oily hair, the ones from Rosmarinus officinalis with cineole, fromYlang-Ylang or even fromSweet Orange Citrus sinensis are more suitable.
To strengthen one's hair and combat premature hair loss, it is advisable to rely on essential oils that stimulate micro-circulation, such as grapefruit essential oil (Citrus paradisii) or Atlas cedar oil (Cedrus atlantica).
FAUCON M. Traité d'aromathérapie scientifique et médicale - Les huiles essentielles - Fondements et aides à la prescription (2017).
Charie, T. Se soigner par les huiles essentielles. Pourquoi et comment ça marche ? Editions du Rocher. (2019).