Aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of essential oils, is one of the most popular approaches to wellbeing, because the oils are widely available, pleasant, and easy to use. Essential oils can quickly uplift you; calm and relax you; enliven, motivate, and inspire you; harmonize and balance your emotions; and help improve many basic physical and psychological functions.
In this article, you’ll learn why the quality of essential oils is so important, how to use them, and specific oil blends to balance the doshas.
An Ancient Tradition
Healing scents have been used in the Ayurvedic tradition for millennia—from sandalwood incense lit during meditation to holy basil infused water sprinkled indoors for purification. Vaidyas—Ayurvedic physicians—treated Indian royalty with dried and fresh herbs, floral waters, and aromatherapy oil massage.
Ayurveda considers the use of aroma as an important tool for prevention and healing; practitioners use it for protecting the vital force, prana; regulating digestion and metabolism, agni; and increasing resistance to disease, ojas.
Essential oils are highly concentrated essences of aromatic plants. They can be derived from all parts of the plant: flowers (rose), woods (sandalwood), barks (cinnamon), leaves (basil), roots (licorice), and fruits (orange). The methods of oil extraction are time consuming and expensive, and require a high degree of expertise.
Some essential oils are especially costly due to the labor intensive process and the quantity of the plant required to produce the oil. For example, approximately 2,000 kilograms of rose petals would produce 1 kg of essential oil, and 4 million jasmine flowers produce a kilogram of jasmine oil! However, they are also highly potent—only a few drops are required to achieve the desired effect.
Essential oils can be used alone or in combination. At Maharishi AyurVeda, we mix our aromas into synergistic blends to increase their potency and to balance the effect of individual oils. A synergistic blend of healing substances delivers a holistic benefit that is greater than the sum of its parts. Furthermore, careful balancing of ingredients is reported to counteract possible side effects from a single substance. Read more about our essential oils here.
Quality and Method of Distillation are Important
The effectiveness of essential oils employed for therapeutic use depends on the purity of the oils. When essential oils are completely pure—produced without the use of chemicals and synthetic products—the aroma and health benefits are greatly enhanced.
Highest quality is assured when oils are produced according to stringent standards. These kinds of pure oils have been difficult to obtain for a number of reasons, even though the demand for quality essential oils is growing.
Producing 100 percent pure essential oils requires more time and focus and involves greater risks, so it’s done by only a few small family enterprises.
The distillation process is also crucial to the quality of the oils. Many modern methods distill the oils too quickly using high pressure and high temperature, causing many of the rare, precious elements to be lost. On the contrary, slow distillation at lower temperatures ensures the maximum retention of active components in the oils, which contributes to their special aromatic and therapeutic effect.
Our essential oils are 100 percent pure; derived from plants that are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides; and they are distilled slowly and under low pressure to ensure maximum retention of active components.
How to Use Essential Oils
When we smell essential oils, the vapor stimulates our olfactory nerve. This is the only nerve in the body that directly contacts the environment and goes all the way to the brain. The olfactory nerve stimulates the limbic system, which is connected to the areas of the brain that process emotions, desires, appetites, and memories, as well as the endocrine glands which regulate hormone levels in the body. For this reason, aromas have a subtle but very powerful influence on our mind and body. Scents of vanilla, orange blossom, rose, chamomile, and lavender have a noticeably calming effect. Lavender, sandalwood, and nutmeg oils also help to reduce stress. Patchouli oil helps reduce worry, lifts the mood, and increases bliss. Try our therapeutic aroma blends; Calming, Cooling, and Stimulating. Put them in a room or car diffuser to cleanse and purify the air, or wear them in an aroma locket to relax, uplift your mood, or improve your sleep.
Aromatherapy massage is another widely used Ayurvedic technique. During a massage, you inhale the essential oils and your skin absorbs them as well. They penetrate the tissues and find their way into your bloodstream, where they are transported to the organs and systems of the body. Essential oils have different rates of absorption, so it’s best not to shower directly following a massage to ensure maximum effectiveness. To balance your dosha or to adjust to the seasons, try our Moisturizing, Soothing, or Stimulating aroma massage oils. Our Youthful Skin Massage Oils are also rich in aromas and balance all the three doshas.
Aromatic baths are also popular forms of aromatherapy. The large surface of the warm water in the tub instantly vaporizes the essential oils, sending their particles to your brain. Soaking alone relaxes your muscles and your whole physiology, so you enhance the effect of the aromas. Add bath salts right before you enter the tub to enjoy the full potency of their essential oils. You may also apply essential oils topically post-bath, but be sure to dilute them with a good quality carrier oil first before applying to your skin. The standard dilution is 20-40 drops essential oil to 2 ounces of a carrier oil.
Skin and Hair Care
Unlike many personal care items scented with synthetic aromas, our body care formulas use only pure essential oils. The smell of botanicals like roses, jasmine, or neem in soaps can enliven your shower. Organic Rose Water helps tone your skin and uplift your spirit. The aromas in our Youthful Skin Cream relax your entire physiology when you apply it to your skin. They also get absorbed in your bloodstream through your skin. For this reason, whatever bodycare products you use, make sure they contain only natural essential oils and ingredients. Artificial aromas and perfumes will not provide the same benefits and can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.
Supporting the Immune System
Essential oils are ideal for aiding immunity during the cold winter months when your physiology is more susceptible to getting a cold or flu. Virtually all pure essential oils have bactericidal and anti-microbial properties, which offer support to the immune system. To support your respiratory system, try Clear Breathe. Sniffle Free Aroma Oil is also useful for opening up the nasal passages for easier breathing.
Add a few drops of an antibacterial essential oil such as lemon, tea tree, or lavender to your cleaning liquid when washing down kitchen counters, door handles, and bathroom fixtures. You can make a spray with 10-20 drops of your favorite oil(s) to an 8-oz. mister bottle filled with distilled water. Shake well before use.
Carry a handkerchief, cotton ball, or tissue soaked with drops of an essential oil and inhale occasionally while traveling. This is particularly useful in public transport, where the air may not be very fresh.
Note: Essential oils are potent substances — less is more with many of these oils. Exercise care in both blending and use. Test for sensitivity and always dilute oils before bringing them in contact with your skin. If you are pregnant, please consult your physician before using any essential oils. These oils are for external use only.
Balance the Doshas with Aromatherapy
Restore balance to your mind, body, and spirit with essential oils, according to your dosha.
Balancing blends for Vata dosha generally include sweet, warming oils that soothe the mind and emotions and enhance serenity, such as sweet orange, geranium rose, ylang ylang, and frankincense. Try equal parts of ylang ylang and frankincense (2-4 drops each) mixed in 2 oz. of a light massage oil such as jojoba or sweet almond for a relaxing therapeutic full-body massage. A couple of drops of our Calming Vata Aroma Oil in hot water works well for facial steam therapy in cold, windy weather. A combination of 2 drops of lemon, 2 drops of sweet orange, and 4 drops of jasmine makes a great blend for a late-night bath. You may also enjoy Slumber Time Aroma Oil, which fosters deeper, blissful sleep and Worry Free Aroma Oil, which settles the emotions.
Pitta dosha tends to get out of balance in situations of extreme heat, whether it be related to the weather or the emotions. Aroma blends for balancing Pitta include our Cooling Pitta oil and Blissful Heart Aroma Oil. Try cooling oils such as rose, fennel, and sandalwood, mixed with smaller amounts of soothing oils like ylang ylang and frankincense, or uplifting oils like lemon or peppermint. These combinations are designed to keep you calm, yet focused and alert. Try 4 drops each of ylang ylang and sandalwood for a bathwater infusion on hot days. Blend equal parts of vetiver, sandalwood, rose, jasmine, and fennel, using the quantity directed on an aroma diffuser.
Oil blends for Kapha dosha such as our Stimulating Kapha oil are generally warm, spicy, and invigorating, designed to wake you up on damp, cold, gray spring days. They contain vital oils such as rosemary, eucalyptus, peppermint, and basil, with smaller amounts of balancing oils such as frankincense or ylang ylang. Try four drops of peppermint and 2 drops each of frankincense and ylang ylang as a bath infusion in the morning, or as part of your shower gel. (Use 4-6 drops per 2 oz. of unscented cleanser). You'll feel the invigorating aromas subtly balance your body and mind long after you've bathed or showered. A drop each of eucalyptus and basil works wonders in steam therapy water on moist, cold days. This blend will help you feel fresh, alert, and clear.
Aromatherapy has so many applications that even if you have a busy schedule, you can still enjoy the benefits! Diffuse your favorite oils at home or while you commute to work, add essential oils to your massage or bath, and choose personal care items with pure, natural aromas. Essential oils take up little room, go a long way, yet their effect can be very balancing on your mind and body.
© 1999, 2021 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.