Cold weather and dark evenings are just the right time for home aromatherapy to take care of our body and mind with the enchanting aromas of essential oils. Marika Külm, a member of the Estonian Aromatherapy Association and an aromatherapist, tells us in more detail about essential oils, their effects and aromatherapy.
Marika studied biology at the University of Tartu before reaching aromatherapy. Although she is not a botanist by profession, but a microbiologist, she has always been interested in nature, animals and plants. Especially in herbs. “I researched how different herbs work in books, and at one point I thought I needed someone wiser to help me learn more, or at least validate my existing knowledge,” Marika recalls. That’s how Marika found her way to Epp Allik’ Aromatherapy School 20 years ago. “I first found a course in herbs and so it started to develop little by little. I got to know the people in the field and the essential oils, I took a basic course and I realized that this is what I want to learn,” says Marika.
There is a complete scientific basis behind the effects of essential oilsShe recalls that the most interesting thing about essential oils for her was what they consisted of. “Essential oils are, of course, made up of chemical compounds, and I was increasingly interested in what their active ingredients are, how they work and how they support the functioning of our body,” says Marika.
“We are used to the fact that the medicine is something we take, inject or rub on. It is the same with essential oil, ”says Marika. There is a complete scientific basis for the effects of essential oils. While 10% of the various active ingredients reach the body through the skin, as much as 70% reaches it through the airways. The essential oil floats in the room, when inhaled it moves to the lungs with air, where there is an active exchange. The active ingredients of the essential oil then travel directly into the bloodstream and then through the bloodstream to the whole body.
“We do not promote consuming essential oils because there are many dangers. You have to be able to diagnose what to treat, you have to know the doses and the concentration,” she explains. In addition, it is important to understand what is going on in the body with the essential oil – whether, how much, and how it will reach the place we are treating, and whether the amount of essential oil that has arrived is sufficient for the treatment. There may also be no information on how essential oils are converted in the metabolic process, nor can we estimate whether these modified metabolic intermediates are toxic and damage our kidneys and liver.
How does essential oil work then?
The chemical compounds in essential oils affect our central nervous system. In the upper part of the nasal box are olfactory receptors, which are affected by the molecules of essential oils. From there, the impulse generated by the molecule travels through the olfactory bulb to different parts of the brain (large cortex, limbic system) and the signal is processed. “The best thing for me is that there are different nuclei in the cerebellum in one part of our brain, one of which – the hypothalamus – regulates many processes in the human body. For example, it regulates reflexes related to the perception of smells and also emotional reactions to different smells, ”explains Marika. The hypothalamus is in turn connected to the pituitary gland. “The pituitary gland regulates the endocrine glands, which produce hormones that directly affect our biochemical reactions. So odors affect our physical bodies to a great extent,” she says. Influencing the body through the sense of smell is very fast – just inhale and almost immediately the odors start to affect the processes in your body.
How to use essential oils?
“If there is muscle tension, for example, one way to relieve it is to have a massage that uses essential oils together with the massage oil. They are absorbed through the skin and can be used effectively if used regularly. Essential oils can also relieve anxiety and mental tension, but Marika emphasizes that this does not necessarily mean that stress will disappear without eliminating the source of the stress. “In other words, it is important to give in from another place – to rest or to make a change in life. Of course, it is not always possible to do this, and then aromatherapy helps to overcome tense situations more easily, ”says Marika.
Marika herself likes to take a bath at home to relieve tension. “If you’ve had more difficult times and want to be able to fall asleep at least peacefully, it’s a good idea to add essential oil to your foot bath water or whole body bathwater,” she suggests. It should be borne in mind that the essential oil must not be dripped directly into the water.“ Before immersing in bathwater, the oil must be emulsified with, for example, honey or creamy milk, which contains fat. This helps the essential oil to dissolve in the bathwater,” explains Marika. The classic aromas that are suitable for this procedure are citrus, which Estonians like very much. “Grapefruit, mandarin, red-orange, sweet orange: they are safe and not tiring, but stimulating. Maybe they will take down the mental tension, but at the same time the head will be clear and the feet will be on the ground,” says Marika. However, if there are very difficult or tense situations, you can also choose geranium, jasmine, sandalwood, petitgrain – depending on your preference. Always make sure that the particular oil is indicated for human use before use. For example, in children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with health problems, dosing should be monitored and started with small amounts.
Did you know how long a diffuser can work at once?
At home, it is also possible to use essential oils in a diffuser or aroma lamp, which emits essential oils with steam. A similar option is available with an ordinary scented lamp, where there is a bowl filled with water and essential oils above the burning tealight. “They certainly can’t be on the whole day, but 30 to 60 minutes is enough. Then keep the same interval and let the air into the room in the meantime. Otherwise, it can be easily overdosed and your head can start to hurt,” Marika instructs.
The amount of essential oils to be dispensed into the humidifier must also be taken into account.“ Dosing depends on the size of the room. The general rule is 4 drops per 10 m2, 8 drops per 20-30 m2. Some essential oils, such as ylang-ylang, are very intense and even a single drop is enough. At the same time, you can put a few more drops of citrus.” Marika herself has preferences for essential oils from time to time. “Ylang-ylang is good, although some people think it is bad. My favorites are definitely different citrus fruits – for example, red-orange, in addition to tulsi, also known as holy basil, which is very stimulating. Among the favorites now and before has been vetiver – an oil derived from a shrub-like blood plant that is relaxing and soothing.
“In order for her favorites to be available if necessary, Marika carries a fragrance stick, in other words, a personal perfume, which is convenient to use to increase well-being.“Essential oils have been added to the small roller bottle to stimulate and support. There doesn’t have to be several of them, a couple is enough, ”she says. In addition to a bottle with a roller, you also need an odorless base oil to make perfume, for example, unrefined grape seed or jojoba oil. Marika herself prefers unrefined coconut oil. “When the mixture of pleasant aromas is ready to mix, it can be applied to the heart rate points or under the nose, if desired, so that the active ingredients of the pleasant aroma enter the bloodstream,” says Marika.
Aromatherapy can also be much more than a simple pleasure
“In recent years, I have moved towards clinical aromatherapy, which is still uncommon in Estonia, but where essential oils can help people who are struggling with health. Nowadays, it is not daring to say that it is possible to treat with essential oils, but there is good cooperation with medicine, ”says Marika. Namely, research is being done to reduce the amount of antibiotics when combined with essential oils. This could reduce the amount of antibiotics in the drug. In addition, in the Netherlands and England, for example, aromatherapy has been integrated into the medical system. “We are not talking about alternative medicine, but integrative medicine, where essential oils are used to relieve digestive problems and pain or in the treatment of wounds. “In many places, disinfectants are no longer used, but solutions of essential oils are used. For headaches or other aches and pains, aromatherapy is combined with specific touch techniques. It is also practiced on cancer patients who cannot be massaged, ”Marika mentions. If due to chemotherapy the body is feeling sick and the mood is down, there are various methods of inhalation to improve your well-being. Aromatherapy is officially considered to be a branch of alternative medicine, although essential oils have been extensively studied and some of their effects have been proven. Aromatherapy is a good way to make people’s lives more lively and relaxed.
If anyone is more interested in aromatherapy and learning it, it can be done at the Kristel Krautman Academy of Health, where Marika teaches some subjects. You can also turn to Tartu Health Care College, where you will gain knowledge at least within the basic course. You can also study abroad, for example by taking e-courses at the Aromahead Institute or participating in the Botanica 2022 conference.