Looking for a way to de-stress from the holidays and the pressure of your New Year’s resolutions? Aromatherapy may be the perfect, natural solution. Aromatherapy uses the essential oils taken from plants, which are then distilled, making a highly concentrated oil that can be inhaled or applied topically to the skin. There is an endless selection of these concentrated oils which are taken from plants, herbs, and flowers such as lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, and even ginger. Aromatherapy can promote holistic health within the mind, body, and spirit – and is a great way to safely ease tension and stress. The benefits of aromatherapy can be enhanced by using essential oils through massage.

While history cannot quite locate the origins of aromatherapy, we do know that Egyptians were the first to be credited with the practice of extracting oils from place to use in their embalming rituals. While studying the healing effects of essential oils in 1937, French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse coining the term, “aromatherapy”. In WWII, a French surgeon, Jean Valent used aromatherapy by placing essential oils on wounded soldiers to promote healing.

Aromatherapy as a practice has a wide range of benefits, and specific oils can target certain health issues. For example, you may already be aware of the stress-reducing effects of lavender, chamomile, and rose – but did you know that these oils can also improve one’s sleep? Citrus-based essential oils work to energize the body and mind, but it has also been used for its pain reduction and anti-inflammatory properties. When inhaled or applied to achy joints, or tense muscles, citrus oils will work wonders. Aromatherapy’s positive effects have become so evident, that it is now being incorporated into the treatment plans of cancer patients in order to manage side effects and symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and depression.

Fairview Hospital and the Mayo Clinic have both trained their staff to effectively use aromatherapy for the treatment of patients. Sandy McGurran, a care management coordinator at Fairview, said that they utilize lavender oil’s healing properties to ease tension and digestive problems. Peppermint oil has also demonstrated some positive effects in memory loss patients.

McGurran continues to boat the ease of use and accessibility of aromatherapy, stating, “Even students are using peppermints for standardized testing because it helps them hone in an focus. So that’s even a good one to have at your desk instead of that 3 o’clock coffee.”

Aromatherapy is not a cure all, as Sue Cutschall at Mayo Clinic states, “…similar to meds, both don’t take away the pain immediately, but I think we need to start looking at what are the multiple ways in which we can help our patients.” This goes to suggest that aromatherapy is a beneficial supplement to many clinical interventions.

Whether it’s reducing your stress, prompting relaxation to get a better night’s sleep, or helping a cancer patient have a few extra moments of well-being, we should all take the time to enjoy and explore what essential oils can do for us in the new year. Here’s how to get started.

Have you had a taste of mindfulness and relaxation thanks to aromatherapy? Take another step towards decluttering your mind and join us for an exclusive YogAuditing session this February.