The art and science of aromatherapy have been particularly cultivated in India as an ancient healing art. Its secrets have been passed on from one generation to the next with great care.
Special attention is given to the entire process – from the methods of cultivation of plants from which essential oils are extracted to the specific ways they are distilled, and later used in traditional formulations.
Within the context of Ayurveda, the use of aromatherapy is fundamental to doshic balance, especially when combined with Ayurveda body care treatments, nutrition, and herbology. Their skillful use can enhance vitality at a physical, emotional, and mental level, as well as revert unbalances, bringing a renewed sense of wholeness and reconnection with our own nature.
Sensual Awareness & Body Chemistry
Our senses convey information from the outside and constantly affect the balance of the five elements. Every input we receive from our senses is translated in inner impulses that affect our health and wellbeing, as well as our consciousness.
Every sense has a direct connection with the brain, thus affecting our whole energetic system. The sense of smell has a special influence in our emotional and mental bodies.
When inhaled, odor-bearing molecules activate receptors in the nose, which are then translated into nerve impulses. These electromagnetic messages are sent immediately to the limbic area of the brain, where emotions are processed. The limbic system is the most primitive part of our brain and relates to our basic impulses, survival instinct, and emotional responses. The olfactory nerve is the only nerve in the body that has a direct contact with the external environment and goes all the way to the brain.
This direct connection explains why aromas have a profound and immediate effect on our inner balance, and can affect our emotions in a strong way, stimulate appetite, desires, and memories.
The limbic system is made up of the hippocampus (involved in memory and learning), the amygdala, the septal area and several regions of the cerebral cortex. It links the voluntary and involuntary nervous systems, the left and right brain, and also is in direct communication with the pituitary and pineal glands. These are the master glands of the endocrine system and they direct many of our bodily processes.
There are 800 million nerve endings in this pathway. Interestingly, these cells are replaced every 28 days. Considering our evolution, this constant regeneration may be related to the use of smell to our survival in a time when we were challenged daily and more directly by outside forces and utilized the information received from the sense of smell for protection.
Another interesting fact is that the nasal mucous cells contain P450 enzymes, which are also predominant in the brain’s sense cells, the liver and skin. Their job is to prevent toxins from damaging the body, so they work in the areas where toxic chemicals make contact with the body most frequently, to alter the effect of toxins, either incorporate them for use in the body or have them expelled.
When used in contact with the skin, essential oils penetrate the epithelial tissues, which include the surface skin, nasal passage, bronchioles, lungs, and further move into the gastro-intestinal tract.
Once absorbed into this first layer, they quickly penetrate the lymphatic and circulatory system, reaching the brain, and entering the general circulation. As the oils reach different organs, each organ system selects the elements they may need and absorb their nutrients in any proportion. Due to their volatile and light nature, essential oils pass through the body in less than 48 hours and are then excreted by either sweat, urine, or feces. Different essential oils travel through different pathways and affect various organ’s systems and tissue layers.
For example, the amygdala plays a major role in storing memories of fear and trauma and that scent stimulation of the amygdala is a key to unlocking this stored trauma in the body (according to research done by Dr. Joseph Ledoux, of the New York Medical Center, 1989)
The connection between plants and humans
In nature plants take in the elements of sun, earth, air and water and convert them into molecules of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats during the process of photosynthesis. Chemically essential oils are made up of alcohol, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, terpenes, sesquiterpenes, ethers and esters which work together to affect the body in various ways and have pharmacological and therapeutic properties.
The cellular structure and chemical composition of DNA in plants, animals, and people are composed of primary hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. Both plants and humans depend on chelating chemicals in the blood to transport nutrients through the action of iron in the hemoglobin of the red blood cells (in human beings) and magnesium (in plants). Considering the similarity of this process in both plants and humans, we may understand how plant’s chemistry may act as keys to many of our physical and mental processes.
Through their chemistry plants communicate with each other, defend against predators, and attack other species to protect their resources. This same information can be utilized by our energetic system.
Aroma molecules also give off an infrared radiation that can be picked up by other insects and probably animals and humans. Humans have their own infrared emanations that seem to relate to the subtle molecular odors that surround a person. Infrared radiation can also be absorbed. John Tyndale discovered that the essential oils of Patchouli, Sandalwood, Cloves, Lavender, Rose, Lemon, Thyme, Rosemary and Aniseed can absorb infrared rays. These were the oils he experimented with and it is believed other oils have these same capabilities. It is known that infrared exposure improves circulation and opens blood vessels, bringing blood to the surface. This may explain the fact that essential oils are known to absorb infrared radiation can increase circulation and oxygenate the blood.
There may be 200 to 800 different chemical constituents in a single oil and each has its own effect on the body. For example, Aldehydes are anti-infectious, sedative and calming to the nervous system. Eugenols are stimulating and antiseptic. Ketones stimulate cell regeneration and liquefy mucous. Phenols are antiseptic and kill viruses and bacteria. Sesquiterpenes are anti-inflammatory and bring increased oxygen to the brain and stimulate the endocrine glands, Terpene Alcohols are anti-bacterial and work as diuretics and decongestants. And so on…
For example, there are three types of terpenes. The first is called phenylpropanoids or hemiterpenes, which work to clean the receptor sites on the cells. The receptor sites are “transfer stations” where chemical and energetic information is conveyed through hormones, peptides, neurotransmitters, steroids, or other intracellular messengers. When these sites are clogged this blockage generates miscommunication between cells. The hemiterpenes are found in Clove (90%), Cassia (80%), Oregano (60%), Anise (50%) and Peppermint (25%) oils. These oils are effective in detoxification and clearing the body’s channels of communication, and are also well known for their anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities.
Another variety of terpenes is called sesquiterpenes. They deliver oxygen to the cells and also seem to be capable of erasing or de-programing miswritten information in the DNA. Sesquiterpenes are the principal constituent of Cedarwood (98%), Vetiver (97%), Spikenard (83%), Sandalwood (90%), Black Pepper (74%), Patchouli (71%), Myrrh (62%) and Ginger (59%). They are also found in a lesser quantity in Galbanum, Benzoin and Frankincense (all 8%).
The third terpene is called monoterpenes. Oils high in these chemicals have many valuable healing properties. One extraordinary ability of monoterpenes is their capacity to re-program information in the cellular memory. Improper coding in the DNA can lead to malfunctioning of cells and subsequently to disease. These oils work to correct this information. The oils highest in monoterpenes are Galbanum (80%), Angelica (73%), Hyssop (70%), Cistus (54%), Peppermint (45%), Juniper (40%), Frankincense (40%), Spruce (38%), Pine (30%), Cypress (28%) and Myrtle (25%).
What stories does this plant tell?
From the subtle energy aspect, each plant carries a story of cellular memory, which is transferred to human beings through their essence, the oils extracted from their leaves, roots, flowers, or seeds. What stories do they tell?
The use of essential oils can increase our ability to listen to deeper layers of our inherent intelligence when our energetic system is activated by the plant’s memory.
The measurable rate of electrical flow between two points is called frequency. Everything has a frequency. The scent is created by the rate that molecules move. This rate can speed up or slow down, depending on the oil. It seems to be the vibration rate rather than the molecular shape that makes oils smell a certain way.
According to recent scientific research, pictures of the brain show color changes when aromas are introduced. The brilliance of the colors turns dark, cloudy or missing with the impact of lower frequency.
When essential oils are placed in the palm of the hand, the auric field changes also have been recorded – with higher frequencies (such as rose oil), the individual’s aura gets brighter and wider than the field in the control photographs where no oils are introduced. Essential oils bring more coherence to the auric or energy field, thus, can be used to align frequencies, balancing and harmonizing body organs.
Essential oils blends can amplify these frequencies, in the same way that crystals. Lower frequency oils have an impact on structural and physical changes while higher frequency oils affect the emotional and spiritual realm.
Hot & Wet > Best for Vata – Worst for Pitta – Good for KaphaHot & Dry > Fair for Vata – Poor for Pitta – Best for KaphaDry & Cold > Worst for Vata – Best for Pitta – Fair for KaphaCold & Wet > Fair for Vata – Good for Pitta – Fair for Kapha
Ayurveda Energetics and Essential Oils
Ayurveda understands the effects of the different essential oils according to their qualities, and uses their correlation with the doshas and dhatus, for restoring balance and healing.
Ayurveda recognizes that because of their chemistry, different essential oils will either be heating or cooling, moisturizing or drying, etc…
These different qualities, when taken in account of the Prakruti and Vikruti of the person who will choose the oils, will offer guidance for use and dosage.
Ayurveda offers hundreds of traditional formulations for the preparation of medicated oils combining carrier oils, essential oils, and herbs. Their use includes massage, various body care treatments such as nasya, ear cleansing, mouth washing, vaginal tampons, as well as cooking.
Vata is treated with oils that are heavy, calming and warming. And there are two types of Vata imbalance to consider:
1. When Vata becomes obstructed by the presence of toxins, due to indigestion, poor diet, and poor elimination.
This is addressed with pungent essential oils that will bring the heat, lightness, and mobility, thus removing the obstruction.
The suggestion of oils that remove the accumulation of toxins and purify blood: ajwain, black pepper, calamus, cayenne, cinnamon, clary sage, cumin, coriander, frankincense, myrrh, turmeric.
Suggestion of oils that remove obstruction of Vata in the intestinal tract, relieving gas, and improving digestion: ajwain, angelica, basil, calamus, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, lavender, lemon, nutmeg, orange, oregano, pine, saffron, thyme, turmeric.
The suggestion of oils that induce perspiration, eliminating surface toxins, increasing circulation, relieving aching joints and headaches due to cold and congestion: angelica, basil, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, coriander, eucalyptus, fennel, ginger, lemon balm, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme.
Suggestion of oils that strengthen and regulate the nervous system, promoting mental health and clearing anxiety and emotional toxins: ajwain, basil, calamus, camphor, chamomile, eucalyptus, fennel, garlic, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, myrrh, nutmeg, sage, sandalwood, vanilla
All these oils should be used for a short period of time, only until they reach the desired effect of removing toxins and unblocking Vata, otherwise, they will increase dryness and aggravate Vata.
2. When Vata is in excess in the body, causing dryness, emaciation, and loss of tissues. This is often the case in the aging process.
Oils required will be nutritive, to build up tissue.
The suggestion of oils that are nutritive: angelica, clary sage, jasmine, myrrh, rose, saffron, tarragon, vanilla.
The suggestion of oils that are nourishing tonics: aloe, rose, jatamansi, arnica, Brahmi, calamus, frankincense, cedarwood, jasmine, myrrh, rose, saffron, vetiver.
The suggestion of oils that are good for both types of Vata, they are mainly stimulants which increase digestive fire and strengthen circulation, though they are not appropriate for very high Vata: ajwain, arnica, bergamot, celery seed, clove, eucalyptus, ginger, marjoram, orange.