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Healing properties of essential oils

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By Nelly Favis-Villafuerte

Treatment using scents is more popularly referred to as aromatherapy. It simply means the use of essential oils to improve health and prevent illness. Nowadays, more and more people are convinced of the remarkable healing properties of essential oils… despite the fact that on-going extensive scientific researches are still being conducted world-wide by the cosmetic, food, and flavoring industries to prove convincingly without doubt that aromatherapy can treat medical condition.  And also, to check, among others, the toxicity and safety of essential oils.

One may ask: what are essential oils? Essential oils are aromatic essences extracted from plants, flowers, trees, fruits, bark, grasses and seeds. There are more than 150 types of oil that can be extracted. The term essential is used to mean that the oil carries distinctive scent (essence) of the plants. Essential oils is not the same as essential fatty acids.

Essential oils get absorbed in our body. They enter our body direct by inhalation; by absorption; and by topical application like in massage. The small molecules of essential oils penetrate human skin easily, enter the blood stream directly and ultimately get flushed out through our system.

In the Philippines, some of the common essential oils used in aromatherapy extracted from plants that grow in the country are:  ylang ylang (cananga odorata), lemon grass (citronella), patchouli, vertiver, castor seeds (castor oil), pili, eucalyptus (mint), malunggay, sampaguita, sambong and ginger.

One neurologist said that: “smell acts directly on the brain, like a drug.” Once the aroma enters the nose, the smell is converted by the cilia (the fine hair inside the nose lining) into electrical impulses that are transmitted through the brain through the olfactory system. The electrical impulses reach the limbic system, a part of the brain which is associated with our moods, emotions, memory and learning. The limbic system is also the storehouse of millions of remembered smells. This explains why certain smells and fragrances bring back childhood memories.

Some agencies of the government like DOST (Department of Science and Technology) and TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) are helping in this national effort to promote the essential oils industry by conducting seminars on how to prepare essential oils.  The potential growth of the essential oils industry both in the local and export scenes is dependent on the availability of abundant locally grown plants as sources of essential oils.

Essential oils can be used in many ways at home and at the place of work. Many of us are familiar with the use of diffusers (generally made of ceramic or clay) with a cave like opening to house small candles or earthen oil lamps and the top is shaped like a curved cup to hold a little water and a few drops of aroma oil. The top cup of the diffuser is filled with water and a few drops of essential oils – then light the candle or the lamp. Once the water and the oil heat up, evaporation takes place and the whole place is filled with the aromatic scene. The scent gives one a relaxed feeling and at times one gets instant relief from pain.

Many of us are under stress very often. Let’s try aroma oils to relax and calm our nerves. Rather than buy expensive tranquilizers, barbiturates and/or antibiotics and other chemical drugs.

Have a joyful day! (For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: villafuerte_nelly@yahoo.com)

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