Scents have a quick connection to the brain: no other sensory perception can influence our well-being and pain so spontaneously. But not everyone likes essential oils – and they can cause allergies.
It is well known that sympathy goes through the nose. We decide within seconds whether we can smell someone or something: smells have a stronger effect on our mood than sounds or colors. Fragrances, for example, make you want to eat, wake up memories and trigger spontaneous feelings of happiness. Smells we like prepare the body for digestive work and even strengthen the immune system. Pleasant aromas can therefore promote our joie de vivre – and possibly even health.
In aromatherapy, essential oils are either inhaled with steam, used as a bath additive or massaged directly into the skin. Some substances are supposed to invigorate, others soothe or promote sleep. Aroma therapists use essential oils specifically for specific symptoms.
However, a clear therapeutic effect could only be demonstrated in a few cases. But because of their beneficial effects, fragrances can make medical sense. Breast wraps and foot baths with added thyme can ease those annoying colds . Many people use peppermint or basil oil for headaches , angelica oil for stomach pains and cypress oil for joint pain. But be careful: essential oils can irritate the skin, almost all of them can trigger allergies , some are even poisonous in highly concentrated form. Do not experiment on your own; it is better to ask your doctor or pharmacist beforehand.
That’s behind it:
For thousands of years, healers from a wide variety of cultures have used fragrant substances, especially essential oils. However, aromatherapy has only been around as an independent treatment method for a good 70 years. The French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé is considered to be the founder. A laboratory accident happened to make him aware of the essential oils: in an explosion, he burned his hands and doused them with lavender oil that happened to be available. Over the next few days he noticed that the burns healed surprisingly quickly and did not leave any scars. In 1937 he published his standard work on the subject.
This is how it works:
Especially massages and rubbing with fragrant vegetable oils have been shown to have a relaxing and anxiety-relieving effect. The beneficial effect usually does not last long, however. Laboratory tests provided evidence that oil molecules that are absorbed through the respiratory tract or the skin can directly affect the body and its organs. Tea tree oil can even fight bacteria. However, there is no evidence that aromatherapy can cure disease.
This is what the expert says:
Edzard Ernst is Head of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University in the UK. He has long been concerned with the effectiveness of alternative healing methods and has tested many procedures.
His verdict: aromatherapy is often perceived as relaxing, especially massage with strongly scented oils. It is largely open whether this effect is due to the gentle massage or, as aroma therapists claim, to the specific effects of the essential oils.