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Essential Oils contain the essence or fragrant parts of plants.  They are complex mixtures of naturally occurring chemicals that act as powerful attractants to insects to insure polination and provide protection by repelling harmful insects.  Essential Oils are also referred to as the "blood" of plants and are considered volatile.  The term volatile is applied to essential oils because they consist of tiny molecules that evaporate when exposed to air, even at normal room temperatures.  Rates of evaporation vary among different Essential Oils.   Essential Oils will oxidize and lose their therapeutic action when left in the heat or light, so they need to be stored in dark glass containers. 
Essential Oils are extracted by various means from all parts of plants -- roots, bark, berries, nuts, resins, flowers, leaves, needles, bulbs, seeds and peels.  Methods of extraction include steam distillation (the most common), carbon dioxide gas (CO2), solvent (absolutes), cold-pressed (scarification) and hydro distilled.
Methods of application include massage, inhalation, compresses, baths, vaporizers, sprays, tents and diffusers.
Carrier oils that are extracted from nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are used to dilute essential oils when applying to the skin, protecting the skin from possible irritation from the highly concentrated Essential Oils.
Safety Guidelines for Using Natural Plant Essential Oils
- Keep out of eyes
- Keep out of the reach of children
- Test patch for skin sensitivity
- Some citrus oils are phototoxic, meaning they can cause
  permanent discoloration of the skin when the skin is
  exposed to the sun
- Pregnant women should use only citrus oils (not in the sun)
  and lavendar -- other Essential Oils should be used with
  great caution during pregnancy
- Less is better
- For external use
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using natural plant Essential Oils.  Essential Oils contain chemical properties that have been shown to have certain effects on the human body, such as calming and sedative properties for stress reduction and better sleep, antimicrobial properties (antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal) and mood and energy enhancing properties.
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Many people around the world, including physicians and hospitals in Europe and Russia, use Essential Oils for various therapeutic reasons.  They use Essential Oils for allergies/sinus/bronchitis/colds/flu, nausea, headaches, infections, arthritis, edema, muscle spasms, digestion and insomnia, etc.
Massage therapists use Essential Oils with carrier oils and apply them during massage.  Those who use Essential Oils claim they receive many benefits from the natural properties of these very precious Oils.  If you've ever wondered why high-grade Essential Oils are so expensive, consider the following:
It takes 3000-4000 pounds of petals to distill one pound of Rose Oil.
It takes 250 pounds of flowers to distill one pound of Lavendar Oil.
It takes 50 pounds of leaves to distill one pound of Eucalyptus Oil.
ESSENTIAL OILS:  A Natural Way to Deal With Stress
by Tina Juliette Garcia
The past century created an increase in various types of stress for the human family.  Included in the package of convenience and luxury is the added stress of incorporating new technology into our lives.  We may have traded the hard work of daily chores for going to work to pay for the new gadgets and other items that make life more comfortable for us.
Without naming the many sources of stress, each of us can take a personal inventory to determine which sources are most prevalent in our lives.  Undoubtedly, the world we are currently living in creates an overwhelming number of stressful situations that affect us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
 Source:  SWIHA Stress Management Booklet
Parasympathetic (PNS)                               Sympathetic (SNS)
Rest and Digest                                               Fright-Fight-Flight Response
Safety response                                              Stress Response
Slows down SNS functions                            SNS kicks into high gear
Supports the immune system                        Suppresses the immune system
Supports the digestive system                      Suppresses the digestive
Supports the reproductive system                Suppresses the reproductive
Supports higher mind and                             Decreases higher mind and
analytical problem solving functions             analytical problem solving ability
                                                                          Relies on preprogrammed
The human reaction to stress is a natural response that is built into our nervous system.  The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls functions in our organs and glands that we do not need to think about, such as our heart beat and hormone (chemical) secretion, etc.  Stress activates a branch of our ANS called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
When we are faced with a stressful situation, our hypothalamus sends a message to our anterior pituitary gland through CRF (corticotrophin releasing factor) and on to the adrenal cortex.  The adrenal cortex initiates ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) and cortisol is released, which increases blood pressure, blood glucose and amino acids.  Cortisol exerts a negative feedback effect on the hypothalamus, which inhibits further release of CRF.  The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) takes over once more and we relax.
This is a natural cycle, and a wonderful built-in mechanism for us to deal with threatening (stressful) situations.  However, a problem develops when we are continually bombarded with stressful problems, as this causes us to live in a perpetual state of arousal due to sympathetic nervous system activation.  This heightened state of being on guard can have detrimental affects on our health, lowering our immune defenses and opening the door to dis-ease.
The Affects of Essential Oils on the Limbic System
by Tina Juliette Garcia
The limbic system is comprised of several brain structures.  These structures are the hippocampus, nucleus acumbens, amygdala, cyngulate gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, anterior thalamic nuclei, septum, olfactory bulb and the limbic cortex.
This most-important system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, memory and olfaction, which is our sense of smell.  The word “limbic” comes from the Latin word limbus, which is loosely translated as “border” or “belt”. 
As an aroma enters the nasal cavity, it comes into contact with between three and five million receptor neurons, which are nerve cells that are exposed in the upper part of the nose and nasal septum.  These fine, hairlike projections are called cilia and they actually extend beyond the epithelium surface into the mucosa.
The receptor neurons convert the aroma into a message that is sent to the olfactory bulb.  Generated nerve impulses that reach the limbic system in this way activate smell-related emotions and behaviors.  They play a major role in many emotions, such as pain, pleasure, anger, rage, fear, sorrow, sexual feelings, docility and affection. 
The amygdala and the hippocampus play crucial roles in the formation of memories.  When the amygdala registers emotional significance to sensory information, such as an aroma, its evaluation is sent to the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is vital for learning and short-term memory, and it organizes the information received and then files it with previous memories that have similar sensory details.
The hypothalamus controls the autonomic nervous system, and is the main regulator for heart rate, digestion, sweating, vasoconstriction and eye blinking.  The hypothalamus responds to olfactory stimuli by sending neuronal signals to the autonomic nervous system, the brain stem or the pituitary gland, which is the master gland of the human body. 
It is through control of the hypothalamus that the limbic region influences the entire endocrine system of hormones.  
The creation of an aromatic memory-based response using Essential Oils chosen for their various emotional and physiological therapeutic properties can be a useful tool for massage therapists.  An Essential Oil or Essential Oil blend is prepared according to the needs of the client and utilized during the massage session. 
The combination of massage and aroma puts the client into a parasympathetic nervous state. While in this peaceful, calm and relaxing state, the aroma of the single essential oil or blend will create a memory that is directly related to the client’s relaxing experience of massage. 
The massage oil blend that was created especially for that client can be sent home with the client for further use.  When the client inhales the oil again, the aroma, through the olfactory and limbic systems, can recreate, activate and reinforce the original memory of the relaxed parasympathetic state.  In this way, the client is able to have some control over their own nervous system for healthful benefits.
The same affect can be achieved through inhalation of Essential Oils while listening to Guided Imagery CDs, such as the excellent CDs recorded by Hypnotherapist Linda Bennett (See Link Below).
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