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Winter: Stop and smell the roses

Author: Health Corner, Nancy Brewster, MPH

The popular expression “stop and smell the roses” has been long understood as a recommendation to take it slow, be mindful and enjoy life. To me, the biggest value of the advice comes from literally smelling the roses for its curative and health promoting benefits, better known today as Aromatherapy.

How does it work?

Plant fragrances have been used as stimulants or sedatives for thousands of years; however, clinical settings have been cautious to use Aromatherapy as a stand-alone treatment and it is mostly used as a complimentary therapy (NIH, 2017).  The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) uses the term “complimentary health approaches” to describe treatment modalities of non-conventional medicine that are used in conjunction with traditional medical interventions.

What are some benefits?

The benefits of Aromatherapy in health include physical and psychological improvements (Koulivand, P., Khaleghi, M., Gorji, A., 2013). Common symptoms addressed with essential oils include pain, digestive issues, stress, and sleep anomalies.

Safety and Precautions

The increased popularity of essential oils requires population education. Similarly to other forms of herbal medicine, essential oils contain compounds that may be harmful and/or protective (Tisserand, R., Young, R., 2014).

In 1994 the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) ruled that Botanical Medicine be sold as dietary supplements and placed the responsibility upon consumers to investigate its characteristics and mode of action. Essential oils remain mysterious to the average person, and most of the knowledge associated with them comes in the form of self-education which turns them into potential adversaries in the quest for health. Well-intentioned consumers may use essential oils in a more concentrated form in the hope of a greater effect, or may apply those oils topically undiluted causing serious skin reactions. Some of the lesser known properties of some essential oils are the photosensitivity effects; such is the case with Bergamot, Lemon and Lime (Tisserand, R., Young, R., 2014).

Nice to know

Sensible guidelines for safety include storage away from children’s reach and administration of proper dosage(Tisserand, R., Young, R., 2014). People with specific health conditions are advised to consult their healthcare provider for possible interactions with conventional therapies since the toxicity of essential oils can also be po tentiated by the interaction with other compounds present in the body, such as food or medication (Tisserand, R., Young, R., 2014). Caution should also be exercised with vulnerable populations, such as infants, and pregnant women as the literature review currently shows limited research studies with expecting-mothers and the very young.

So, if this holiday season gets a little hectic, don’t rule out the possibility to “stop and smell the roses”.

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