Ayurveda Day 62: Aromatherapy

Our sense of smell is very closely related to automatic responses in the body. Often we smell something and an involuntary response is triggered – we salivate, a memory is triggered, we become anxious, aroused, confused, calm…It is in this understanding of the power of our sense of smell that we can use it as a tool to heal. This is the very definition of aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy affects our limbic system (fight/fight/freeze response) and our endocrine system (moods). The essential oils used in aromatherapy also have an effect on the physical body, as all smell really is are particles that enter our body through the nose.

Aromatherapy is just another facet or tool we can use in our healing toolkit. It’s most noticeable effect is usually in the mind. We can utilize certain aromatherapies to pacify the doshas:

Vata – decrease flight mode, calms and soothes
Pitta – decrease fight mode, cools and calms
Kapha – stimulating, uplifting, warming

In short – Vata types tend to run when stressed, Pitta types tend to fight when stressed, and Kapha types tend to stagnate when stressed. When you find yourself stressed and displaying those tendencies, aromatherapy can be a great way to bring down the dosha and restore balance. It’s also a relatively easy way and quick way as well.

There are many different types of aromatic products. Essential oils, hydrosols, absolutes, attars, ottos, etc. They are all just different methods of extracting the properties of the plant. These days you can find diffusers that mist the product into the air for relatively cheap.

But why are we so gung-ho about plants in the first place? Why are they so powerful or potent? Why shouldn’t I pop a pill for my stress?

When it comes to plants, they are considered to be sattwic in nature. Plants are basically better than us. We can yell and scream at plants, and sure it will have an effect on the medicine we make from it. But truly, they are not as sensitive as us to being agitated. They are living parts of nature just as we are, but are beyond ego unlike us. They have grown to be able to thrive in nature, producing beauty in flowers and leaves to spread more life, protection in the roots and bark and the heartwood, and can even heal themselves with resin (dried sap). The resin could even be considered to be the ojas of the plant! By using the plants, we are gaining it’s protective properties as well. Often the herbs and foods we eat contain the same parts that we use to make our essential oils. Aromatherapy is just another delivery mechanism.

Think of the power of plants and smell in this way:

You are sitting in a garden of fresh flowers or in a forest grove. How does that make you feel? Calm, peaceful, grounded.
Compare that to sitting in a garbage dump. You will immediately feel agitated, plugging your nose.

Smells have an effect on the mind that cannot be underestimated. Rather than being used by them, we can use aromatherapy to learn to use them to benefit and balance us.

Aromatherapy is such an easy way to relax. Consider adding it to your lifestyle, especially in our stressful fast paced society.

With gratitude,

S

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