The Secrets of Maharishi Aromatherapy
By Dr. Mark Toomey, The Raj Ayurvedic Spa
"It's as plain as the nose on your face" is a common expression we use regularly to express a point. The nose — often neglected, often reshaped — is the key to aromatherapy and its benefits. It is the external part of our olfactory organ and directly connects the brain with the surrounding world.
Our sense of smell also plays a critical role in the sense of taste. You know that one of the downsides to having a bad cold is that food loses much of its taste. Research shows that the sense of smell can affect all aspects of life: motivation, memory processes (including learning), health and feelings of security and well being, even romance. It can save our lives — for instance, have you ever left the gas stove on? Our sense of smell will always come out on top if in competition with the other senses. A meal may look good but smell bad, and this will determine whether we eat it or not — an evolutionary expression of the body's finely-honed sense of survival.
Aromatic and essential oils have been used for thousands of years as treatments for a variety of disorders. Historical texts mention various oils and unguents in Biblical and ancient Egyptian civilizations, and during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, religious rites used aromatic plants and aromatic oils.
Today, aromatherapy is widely used in both alternative medicine and Western medicine settings.
Many studies document the effects of scent on the brain and other systems in animals and humans. On the effects of aromatherapy in particular, many positive effects have been demonstrated, including elevated mood and relief from anxiety, nausea, fatigue and pain, as well as improved reaction time, memory and recall. Published articles describe the use of aromatherapy in hospital settings for the critically ill, and where required to alleviate pain and anxiety, and improve a sense of well-being. It's an easy way to make someone feel better, and even a subtle aroma can have a powerful effect.
Recent experiments demonstrate how difficult it can be to describe a smell. A group given a particular chemical to smell variously described it as either "chocolate," "peanut butter," "sour milk," "codfish," or "endives," with a third of the group unable to pinpoint the smell at all. These incongruities give us a clue as to how the sense of smell may work on the brain.
Our sense of smell from an evolutionary standpoint is old. In terms of brain anatomy, it has very few connections to the language centers, but has many well-developed connections to the limbic system, the brain stem, and pituitary gland, which are the centers for emotions, motivation and hormones. Neuroscience has shown how scent can go directly to the amygdala, that part of the limbic system involved with tagging an emotional significance to an event. The amygdala has also been called the fear center.
The result of this is that a smell does not necessarily lead to a rationalized, verbalized response, but a response that is more emotional and instinctive.
Vata aroma oils will be warm, calming scents, working on the subdoshas such as Prana Vata — that aspect of Vata involved with thinking and breathing.
Pitta being heat means the scents will be cooling and soothing to the heat of Pitta. Because Pitta is also involved with emotions, Sadhaka Pitta is the subdosha that digests emotions; therefore oils such as Blissful Heart Aroma Oil can be great for those emotional times.
Kapha, being heavy and slow, always needs a little stimulation, so the aroma oils are designed to be invigorating.
Aromatherapy has been found to be low in toxicity and with negligible side effects, and does not need approval from the FDA.
Aromatherapy can be used as a subterfuge treatment. For instance, a frustrated parent who could not give a particular diet or herb to her unsettled child recently told us she was successful in settling the child down by using Calming Vata Aroma Oil in the child's room at night while sleeping.
Maharishi Ayurveda aromatherapy is easy, comfortable, effective and safe. Smell it today!
Dr. Mark Toomey, Director of Maharishi Ayurveda at The Raj.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.