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How Do Aromatherapy &

Herbal Compounds Work?

The sense of smell and inhalation

Smell is the only sense where the receptor nerve endings of the brain are in direct contact with the outside world. When we inhale any scent, the neural impulses go directly to the limbic system which is a group of structures which govern emotions and behavior. This area is involved in the formation of long-term memory and it is closely associated with the sense of smell.The limbic system connects to all other parts of the brain and in particular to the thalamus and hypothalamus which is where our whole endocrine system is controlled. Smells can affect our memory, emotions and self-expression. They also affect our entire internal environment, especially the adrenal and sexual systems. So, scents can stimulate clear thinking or give us a sense of euphoria or can be an aphrodisiac. In addition, inhaling essential oils can have a direct impact on the health of the respiratory organs.

Topical application

Often used in massage and for skin care, essential oils can be applied topically for a variety of reasons. There is evidence that oils applied to the skin enter the bloodstream and the effects depend upon the chemistry of each oil. The synergy of chemical constituents that nature provides in true essential oils is a grace and a blessing that the modern science of medicine, with its emphasis on reproducing single chemicals, has not been able to duplicate.

Herbal medicine

The uses of herbs and plants was verbally passed down from generation to generation long before history was being recorded. Then after the development of writing, the ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants as early as 3,000 BC. Indigenous cultures, such as African and Native American cultures, utilized herbs and plants for their healing rituals while others developed traditional medical systems (such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) in which herbal medicines were used. Over the years, researchers have found that people in different parts of the world utilized the same or similar plants for the same healing purposes.

Then in the 1800’s, as chemical analysis became available, scientists began to extract and then modify the active ingredients from plants isolating what they believed to be the active compound(s). As time marched on, chemists began making their own version of plant compounds and the use of herbal medicines began to decline in favor of drugs. Today, almost one fourth of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from botanicals.

The World Health Organization has estimated that over 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their health care. As an example, in Germany alone, about 600 to 700 plant based medicines are available and are prescribed by some 70% of German physicians. Today, public dissatisfaction with the cost of prescription medications, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to an increase in herbal medicine use. In the US, more health care providers are learning about the positive and potentially negative effects of using herbal medicines to help treat health conditions.

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