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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aromatherapy Get's More Validation by Scientific Inquiry Every Day

Aromatherapy Use in History

The use of infused aromatic plant oils as a means to restore as well as maintain wellness has been used for centuries. Coined as the term "aromatherapy" since the 1900s, this therapeutic medicinal practice of using essential oil continues to be used for both physical and emotional needs. Aromatherapy is fast becoming a noted and requested therapy in many parts of the world.

Application of Aromatherapy

The approach to realign the body is mostly through inhalation, direct contact absorption and to a lesser degree ingestion of the essential oil either as a dilute or for some mild oils undiluted. With inhalation, the oils are thought to penetrate the bloodstream via lungs to activate the limbic system and emotional centers of the brain. When applied to the skin (usually in a carrier oil), they activate thermal receptors and kill pathogens (such as bacteria and fungi). If taken orally, essential oils are thought to activate the immune system.

Confirmation in Modern Science

In western culture, validation of medical therapies comes through empirical research. Rising popularity of aromatherapy with main-stream society has prompted researchers to take a closer look at this ancient therapy. Although still largely unproven by a wide breadth of research, preliminary studies, both in vitro and clinical, show positive effects using this medicinal therapy.

Cancer: Aromatherapy is used as mainly a supportive care for people with cancer, specifically for increased sense of well-being and to offset nausea associated with standard cancer treatments. According to the National Cancer Institute, few peer-reviewed studies show a significant difference helping patients with cancer despite an increase in its use by patients. Reviewed studies call for more in-depth research to be conducted.

Immune Booster: At the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, Italy (2008), researchers looked at the influence of eucalyptus essential oil on the monocytic/macrophagic system - one of the primary defenses of the immune system against pathogen attacks. Results indicated that eucalyptus is able to stimulate a cell-mediated immune response, prompting the possibility of developing a new group of immuno-regulatory agents.

Anxiety: Laboratory results (using animals) indicate statistically significant differences when aromatherapy was applied. Clinical trials are few. Yet, one joint review by the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria, United Kingdom (2006), looked at the pharmacology of essential oils and found evidence that essential oils exert measurable psychological effects in humans. Researchers concluded that aromatherapy provides a potentially effective treatment for a range of psychiatric disorders, especially since the side effects are minimal (if non-existent) compared to conventional psychotropic drugs.

Pathogens: Due to rising concern over antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, much investigative work has been done on the efficacy of essential oils to counter these mutating microbes. Most published studies have found that topical applications of essential oils have significant antimicrobial activity.

Concluding Thoughts

Recent science studies indicate that aromatherapy is effective for conditions such as anxiety, depression and boosting cellular immune functions. In many of the studies reviewed, scientists are suggesting further research (rather than dismissing) for possible uses of essential oils as an alternative or complement to conventional medical practices. What has been used for centuries might soon find its place amongst hospitals and medical offices world-wide. The evolution of plant phytochemicals over millennia has served in the preservation of their species. It is likely that such chemicals will be soon sought after on a larger scale for human survival as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Latest Research Validates Bergamot's Anti-Stress Effects

Bergamot Fruit
This is a very interesting study validating aromatherapy's aroma-therapeutic action. It gets directly to the heart of the matter, the brain, as its in the brain that a response occurs from smelling an scent. Our smell sense is the only one with the direct connection to the brain, while all the others have their signal travel through something to get there. And the smell sense is wired right to our most primitive centers, the ones that control emotions, among other things.

Scientists in Italy have elucidated the way bergamot oil lowers stress-induced anxiety and affects mild depression. They go on to note that there is firing of brain cells in such a way that the essential oil "is able to interfere with normal synaptic plasticity". This process occurs in the area of long-term memory formation. That means that it interferes with the process of making a neural connection stronger when repeatedly expose to stress.

For example, think about feeling a familiar stress over and over. It doesn't get easier to take, in-fact that stress becomes unbearable (this is different than a good stress, like exercise). That's because the neural-pathway has been made stronger and stronger, so the same stress seems more intense. Bergamot essential oil makes it so that strengthening of the pathway doesn't occur, or is lessened anyway.

Bergamot essential oil is used for it's anti-stress effects, as well as it's ability to lessen the perceived intensity of pain. And the researchers note that because the mechanism is understood, bergamot it should be used in complementary medicine, alongside conventional medical techniques. Making the statement about complementary medicine gets one thinking about the rest of aromatherapy. Anytime on is using an oil's aroma for a desired emotional or psychological response is probably eliciting some change in the neurochemistry.