Aromatic plants have been used for thousands of years for everything from medicine to religious ceremonies. Our ancestors understood the importance and effectiveness of the oils extracted from these plants, but somewhere along the way, we stopped appreciating the amazing health benefits they can provide. While essential oils have regained some popularity over the last decade or so, they are still significantly underutilized.
If you’re a bit skeptical of the benefits of aromatherapy but aren’t sure why, or if you like essential oils and buy them because they smell good or you’ve heard they’re good for you, this article is for you. I want to give you facts about essential oils and aromatherapy that will help you better understand the value of these aromatics.
What Are Essential Oils?
essential oil/əˈsen(t)SHəl oil/
A natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted. 
Essential oil is the aromatic liquid of a plant that holds its fragrance and is found in its leaves, bark, seeds, roots, fruit, and/or peel. The only way to obtain it is through manual processes of distilling, or by mechanical pressing. The method used depends on the type of plant. Retrieving oils using these processes keeps its chemistry intact, while other processes may alter the oil’s composition and should not be considered as true essential oils. 
Additionally, the purity and therapeutic value of an oil are critical when considering its use for holistic health. Factors such as soil condition, climate, fertilizer, time of harvest and time of extraction can determine the purity and therapeutic value. Anyone wishing to add essential oils to their health regimen should strive to obtain only certified organic and therapeutic-grade essential oils.
Facts About Essential Oils
- Essential oils are concentrated, which means it takes a lot of plants to make a small amount of oil
- Essential oils are volatile, which means it quickly evaporates when exposed to air
- The small molecular structure of essential oils allows them to quickly penetrate the skin
- Essential oils are powerful antioxidants
- Essential oils are an important part of your health, but they’re not essential in the way its name sounds, meaning they are not an absolute bodily requirement like essential fatty acids
- Essential oils help promote emotional, physical, and spiritual healing
Aromatherapy—More Than Meets the Nose
Unique and natural compounds, essential oils are so much more than meets the nose. They can feed your senses, refresh your mind, and protect your body. The most effective and common way to use essential oils and obtain their benefits is through aromatherapy, which is defined in Merriam-Webster as “inhalation or bodily application (as by massage) of fragrant essential oils (as from flowers and fruits) for therapeutic purposes.” Aromatherapy allows essential oils to fight harmful organisms with their antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
There are a number of common ways to practice aromatherapy. The first is to inhale essential oils indirectly by using a room diffuser, which spreads the oil through the air. Next, you can inhale essential oils directly by using an inhaler. Another very common method of aromatherapy is to massage essential oils (usually diluted in a carrier oil) into your skin. Finally, you can add essential oils to a bath, which will be absorbed by the skin and breathed in while soaking. Just make sure you have neutralized the bath water using the following recipe from my book Detox for Life, or you may also be taking in toxins from the water.
1 cup Epsom salts
1/2 cup baking soda
5 drops of frankincense essential oil
Combine ingredients, add to water and let sit for 10 minutes before getting in the tub.
One of the most well-known benefits of aromatherapy is that some oils can undoubtedly affect a person’s mood and mental state. An article in PubMed Health shares an interesting study showing that the behavior and immune response in rats improved when exposed to certain fragrances, and that some oils had either a calming or energizing effect. Another preclinical study in the same article showed that after essential oils were inhaled, “markers of the fragrance compounds were found in the bloodstream, suggesting that aromatherapy affects the body directly like a drug, in addition to indirectly through the central nervous system.” 
Essential oils are so much more than a fragrant smell coming out of the diffuser or rising from the steam in a warm bath. They are an ancient form of therapy that was once revered around the world for their many healing properties. The art of aromatherapy is once again finding its place in our homes as we re-discover its many benefits. All essential oils have a unique composition and each has a multitude of purposes. I hope that you now have a better understanding of what essential oils are, and why they should be considered essential to have in your home.
 English Oxford Dictionary, Online. Retrieved 02/21/2018.
Here are a few of the oils in Dr. Nuzum’s line of essential oils: