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The working of essential oils
Essential oils are volatile, which means that they evaporate as soon as they come into contact with the air. So whichever method of applying essential oils is used, a certain amount is always inhaled. Because body massage is the main method of applying essential oils, this suggests that the lungs and the skin are both of prime importance in the way essential oils get into the body and do their work.
In the lungs
When we inhale air during an aromatherapy massage, bath or other treatment, we also breathe in particles of essential oil. This air and essential oil mix travels down the trachea (windpipe) into the bronchial tubes and then into the lungs. Within the lungs are tiny balloon-shaped air sacs known as alveoli, around which lie minute blood vessels that carry out the exchange of gases. This means that waste products - mainly carbon dioxide - are exchanged for oxygen and particles of essential oil.
On the skin
During a body massage, the skin becomes covered with a base oil (such as sweet almond) containing a small amount of essential oil. Because the skin is semi-permeable - which means that it can absorb and excrete certain substances with a small molecular structure - the oils are drawn into the body through the skin.
Within the body
Once inside the body, the particles of essential oil circulate around the bloodstream and travel to the different organs and body systems. Most essential oils have a therapeutic affinity with particular organs or body systems. For instance, essential oil of rose has a purifying, regulating and tonic effect on the uterus. Once inside the body, the particles of rose will travel to the uterus and have a beneficial effect upon it.
In the mind
Essential oils also have powerful mental, emotional and psychological effects. Staying with the example of rose, it is also an anti-depressant, nerve tonic and aphrodisiac. So an aromatherapist would be likely to include rose in a massage blend for a woman experiencing problems in conceiving. Rose would have an overall beneficial effect on this woman physically, emotionally and psychologically.