- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2017


That lavender-scented lotion, bubble bath or candle you find in your Christmas stocking this year might smell wonderful, but don’t mistake it for aromatherapy. It’s probably filled with synthetic ingredients that won’t give you true physical and psychological benefits.

Aromatherapy has been in use for 6,000 years, and has become increasingly popular since the 1980s in America as a holistic form of medicine. But true aromatherapy requires pure, natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant.

Chemical compounds from some essential oils have shown antibacterial properties, and some evidence suggests that citrus oils may strengthen the immune system, according to test-tube studies at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Keeping a diffuser at your desk with the right essential oils might even ward off that cold that has been going around the office.

Other conditions often treated by aromatherapy include anxiety, insomnia and psoriasis. Studies have found that people with rheumatoid arthritis and cancer who use topical chamomile and headache sufferers using peppermint require fewer pain medications.

Although many of the claims have not been scientifically proved, Barbara Close, an herbalist and healing arts practitioner and founder and CEO of Naturopathica in New York, is a true believer in essential oils. “Their chemical makeup gives them many antibiotic, antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties,” she told Goop.

Shrankhla Holecek, the founder and CEO of UMA Oils, tells Goop: “Knowing what quantities to blend so that they work in concert with one another is critical. On its own, frankincense is both calming and mood boosting — add different oils to it, and you play up certain qualities. Mix it with jasmine or chamomile, and it’s calming; blend it with basil, ginger, or peppermint, and it’s energizing; combine it with sandalwood for a confidence boost.”

How to get the benefits from these essential oils? Some practitioners apply them topically. The most powerful way is transdermally — oils are massaged into the skin, absorbed into the body and travel through the bloodstream.

A popular way to dispense essential oils for health benefits and room fragrance is through diffusers. They range from simple and small devices that sell for $15 at discount stores to sophisticated machines that do much more. One of these is AromaTime by Saje. These elegant cubes come in white and black and fit just about any home decor, and fill a room with specially blended aromas around the clock. The “east” tank is meant for an energizer in the morning, and the “west” tank is intended for relaxation and rest. Preset timers start the humidifying steam automatically.

Saje essential oil classics for the “east” tank include Liquid Sunshine, an uplifting blend of citrus oils, and the restorative Fortified Breeze, which includes essential oils from eucalyptus, lemon peel and thyme. For the “west” tank, Tranquility is intended for relaxation with orange peel, lavender, majorana leaf oil and floral notes. The soothing Stress Release is similar, made with essential oils from lavender, orange peel, anthemis and other floral ingredients.

Essential oils are highly volatile and flammable, and require protection from direct sunlight to prevent oxidation and deterioration of their benefits. If the oil is not packaged in a dark glass container, then it likely either isn’t a pure essential oil or is packaged improperly. That rules out anything in a plastic container. Essential oils will eat into plastic and become ruined quickly.

Although aromatherapy is intended as a natural way to health, some essential oils can exacerbate medical conditions, induce side effects and interact with some medications. Consult with your physician before beginning any type of homeopathic treatment.

• Cheryl Danehart can be reached at cdanehart@washingtontimes.com.

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