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Essential Oils, the Sense of Smell and Human Intelligence

By Holly Dunbar, LMT, RH (AHG), Certified Aromatherapist

Aromatherapy has an obvious connection to the olfactory system, our sense of smell, whose nerves extend directly into the brain.  The olfactory bulb sends an odorant signal to the limbic system of the brain in the space of 1-3 seconds.  Smell is the only sense humans possess that has this direct pathway to the brain.  Also known as the “old brain,” because it’s association with our primal urges and evolutionary development as humans, the limbic system governs both primitive and emotional drives, such as thirst and hunger, sexual urges, emotions, and the habits and behaviors which define our personality.  It is what drives our choices between attraction and revulsion, safety or danger, and pursuit or avoidance.

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Exploring the Energetics of Essential Oils

By Holly Dunbar, LMT, RH (AHG), Certified Aromatherapist

(A version of this article was published in Plant Healer Quarterly, #47, June 2022)

Two trains of thought tend to emerge when one broaches the subject of the energetics of essential oils – one branches to the vibrational energy, and the other to the classification of the oils’ thermal properties.  The thermal nature of essential oils- whether an oil is cooling, warming, or somewhere in between, is not as consistently defined as it is in herbal medicine. While the application of aromatic oils has been used by humans since antiquity, Aromatherapy as we know it today is a much younger holistic modality than herbal medicine’s 5,000-year written history, which perhaps explains the deficiency of classification in energetic principles.  There is still much to be learned about essential oils, a potent product that results from distillation, pressing, or chemical extraction.  Essential oils’ intricate chemistry, their interaction on the physical and mental level, and their synergistic effects with one another, is key to deciphering the science of aromatherapy. 

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Essential Oils for Anxiety Relief

Anxiety is a prevalent emotion currently, as in a matter of weeks, we have found our normal routines dramatically altered, businesses shuttered, finances strained, and even the way we shop for groceries a different experience.  Self-care becomes vital in times like these, as stress is not only detrimental to our feeling of well-being, but suppresses our immune system, lowering our body’s ability to fight infection.  How can aromatherapy and the use of essential oils help us in this difficult period?

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Products to Support Immunity and General Wellness

Some products we make may be of particular use during this viral pandemic, due to the content of anti-viral oils. Or, perhaps your hands feel the effects of so much hand washing! Our hand soap and balms may be the perfect solution for dry skin relief. Below are a few products that are particularly relevant at this time:

Pure Essential Oils 

Essential oils can be used in diffusion, inhaled directly, applied to the body directly in lotions, oils, and salves; or added to the bath or used in the shower. Essential oils, with some exceptions, should always be diluted with respect to their potency. These pure plant oils provide emotional support, pain relief, and have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, as well as many other properties that support physical and mental well-being.

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Essential Oils to Ease Holiday Stress

Essential oils can be remarkably effective stress relievers. These concentrated plant extracts promote deeper breathing, stimulate the limbic system of the brain, and calm the nervous system. Essential oils can be utilized in a number of ways to ease stress: Added to a warm bath, mixed with carrier oil and massaged into the skin, applied in small drops to the feet and scalp, or diffused into the air. Knowing the oil’s properties and indications will make the application one chooses in aromatherapy the most effective.

Frankincense is an ancient oil associated with Christmas and sacred rituals. The oil has a complex aroma with notes of balsam and citrus, considered a base note in perfumery, and has many medicinal properties: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, regenerative, and analgesic. Diffusing the oil combats airborne cold and flu germs, and will be appreciated by anyone suffering from any lung or sinus condition. Frankincense is also used for pain relief in topical applications.

A light, uplifting oil, orange is a great choice to disperse winter blues, which some experience more acutely during the holidays. Orange blends well with frankincense, and is also antiseptic, has expectorant properties for lung and sinus congestion, and benefits the digestion. It is a great oil to use in massage, as it eases fluid retention and reduces the appearance of cellulite.

Have a fake tree but love the smell of a real one? Fir needle oil can add the olfactory ambiance of a real tree when diffused, and help open the sinuses, combat germs and viruses, and relax the nerves. Mixed with carrier oils, it is also effective for relieving muscle and joint pain.

Submitted by Holly Dunbar, LMT, Herbalist

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Aromatherapy for Anti-Stress Support

What are essential oils? What exactly is aromatherapy? We are bombarded with the phrase plastered on everything from air fresheners to scented candles, yet most products advertised as such have nothing to do with this legitimate healing art. Aromatherapy is the application of pure plant oils, called essential oils, to positively affect the health of the mind and body. Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted always from plants, and depending on the oil used, can have relaxing or energizing effects. Topical applications will utilize their various virtues on the physical self and these properties include: anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, immune enhancing properties, and cell regenerating effects. Continue reading Aromatherapy for Anti-Stress Support

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Amazing & Versatile Lavender Oil

AromatherapyLavender essential oil is one product I routinely recommend as a staple in one’s medicine chest. This small vial of essential oil, (as opposed to perfume oil), can provide relief to many common complaints, and can even be relied on as first aid in certain situations. Lavender essential oil is distilled most often from Lavendula angustifolia, or “true” lavender, which distinguishes it from hybrid varieties. Like all essential oils, lavender is primarily used as a topical remedy, and not intended for ingestion. It should be kept out of the reach of children. Continue reading Amazing & Versatile Lavender Oil

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Easing Winter Blues with Essential Oils

Beat the Winter BluesSpring is just around the corner, but the month of March has a way of stretching itself out like a lazy cat that doesn’t want to relinquish its cozy spot. The first day of spring is official on the 20th of March, with the Spring Equinox, but the warmth and growth we associate with spring doesn’t make itself readily apparent until April. Essential oils, which are highly concentrated plant extracts, are a natural choice for banishing the last of the winter blues, as what could be more effective than smelling and applying the essence of plants just as the world outside is breaking its dormancy? Continue reading Easing Winter Blues with Essential Oils

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Aromatherapy: Essential Oil Use in Clinical Practice

The word aromatherapy conjures for many a mere sensual experience, at best the ability of pleasant smelling things to make us feel better. The practice of aromatherapy does suffer from a bit of misnomer, and it’s misinterpretation, particularly in this country furthers the notion that this profound healing art is just about smelling flowery aromas. In truth, our sense of smell is only one application of using essential oils, which are also applied to the skin and with proper guidance, even ingested. Continue reading Aromatherapy: Essential Oil Use in Clinical Practice

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Massage & Aromatherapy to Help Reach Your Goals

Do you have a New Year’s resolution? It’s a common question as we put the holidays behind us and focus on our hopes, goals, and aspirations for the year ahead. Not only is it a tradition of sorts, but New Year’s resolutions seem a natural response to the holiday’s indulgences, and what better time to start fresh than in the season of Winter, which symbolizes renewal. Continue reading Massage & Aromatherapy to Help Reach Your Goals