There’s more to aromatherapy than meets the eye. While the term is often loosely used in popular culture, aromatherapy is in fact a science dating back centuries. In ancient Egypt, essential oils were deemed precious enough to be used as offerings in temples and were also used for medicinal purposes. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the physician—often referred to as the father of medicine—proclaimed, “The way to good health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.” In India, aromatherapy or the use of plants and flowers finds ample mention in the ancient Ayurvedic texts, Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita. We take a closer look at this ancient discipline and how you can use it to achieve your beauty goals.
How aromatherapy works
So, what exactly is the correlation between smell and wellness? “Aromatherapy literally means healing through the sense of smell wherein we use essential oils derived from various parts of the plant,” says Dr. Blossom Kochhar, aromatherapist and founder, Blossom Kochhar Aroma Magic. She explains that essential oils have the capacity to alter moods with their aromas. “They work on our emotions, memories and hormones and are used to promote the beauty, health, and well-being of a person,” she points out.
The different types of oils used in aromatherapy
Dr. Jasmine Modi, acupuncturist and founder of Acushastra Private Limited explains that according to acupressure, oils are divided on the basis of elements. “Some oils have the wood element, some fire, some earth and so on. For example, some cooling oils are Bulgarian rose, apricot, and lavender. I analyse patients as per the elements. These aroma oils essentially balance the five elements,” she says.
Which is the right aromatherapy oil for you?
Dr. Kochhar explains that different essential oils have different properties. “Every essential oil has its own unique fragrance and various benefits. You can pick your oil according to your need, requirement, skin type, or ailment.” She recommends starting slow. “It is best that for starters you use a diffuser or tissue. For topical application, it is recommended that you dilute the essential oils with a carrier oil and do a patch test before application,” she advises.
An oil for every concern
Your body is a reflection of your inner health—and aromatherapy oils help you achieve your optimal health by working at a holistic level. There are of course oils meant for specific beauty concerns—for example, as Dr. Modi shares, jojoba oil is a great remedy for dark circles. Similarly, tea-tree oil is a common remedy for pimples and scarring, while lavender is known for its calming properties—ideal for inflamed skin.
For concerns related to ageing skin, ylang-ylang is a great option. It's known to deeply-moisturise skin, improve sagging and help with an overall glow. Rose is another powerful aromatherapy oil—and can address everything from ageing skin, inflammation, menstrual and fertility issues, digestive issues and depression. Yet another highly potent essential oil is mandarin. It is particularly known to facilitate detox, aid circulation and even heal acne, for healthy, glowing skin. Sandalwood is another calming oil known to be anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, making it an effective remedy for burns, nicks, cuts and breakouts.
The correct way of applying essential oils
“Depending on the concerns, the oils can be applied in different ways, be it applying it on pulse points or acupuncture points,” says Dr. Modi. Dr. Kochhar further explains three more ways of using essential oils. “Massage any essential oil combined with vegetable oil. Alternatively, you can add a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser filled with three-quarters of water. Another way of using these oils is adding a couple of drops into your bath water,” she shares. Essential oils are not meant to be used on their own—and require carrier oils that literally ‘carry’ the benefits to your body. Some examples of effective carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, olive, almond, apricot and sunflower oils.
As far as results are concerned, it differs from person to person. Depending on an individual’s body composition the results can sometimes be instant—as would be the case of someone getting a good night’s sleep after topical application of essential oil. In other cases, results could take weeks and months.
Lastly, on the subject of do’s and don’t’s, aromatherapy and essential oils are largely safe to use. However, Dr. Kochhar recommends consulting your doctor if you are on homoeopathic medication or have conditions such as high blood pressure, epilepsy, or are pregnant.
As you achieve your beauty and wellness goals with this ancient discipline, the feel-good factor of uplifting essential oils is an added bonus.