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An Unlikely Advocate of Aromatherapy

flowers-and-essential-oil-bottleAromatherapy became an interest of mine, oddly enough, after attending a technology conference. A few years back, I was lucky enough to attend the “Computers in Libraries” conference in Virginia. As an Information Technology Librarian, I have always loved attending this conference. It’s very exciting to see what other libraries around the country (and beyond!) are doing with technology to better serve their communities.

After my first day at the conference, I was just exhausted. There is so much information to process, and I had two more days to go, so I went back to the small AirBnB that I had rented to relax. On the nightstand next to the bed, my hosts had left an essential oil diffuser with some instructions. I was totally unfamiliar with diffusers and even essential oils at that point, but filled it up with water, put some drops of peppermint oil in, and started it up. It was SO relaxing! I immediately texted my wife and told her about it. She was really excited and mentioned that she had been eyeing several different diffusers online, but thought that I would think she was crazy! When I got home, we ordered a really nice diffuser from Amazon and hit up our local health food store for the oils to go with it. My wife and I have incorporated it into our nightly routine, and after the kids are in bed, we put on a good show and a nice relaxing essential oil blend in the diffuser to unwind. When the kids are particularly energetic near bedtime, we also use a roll-on combination of lavender and a carrier oil (oils should never be applied directly to the skin!) to help calm them down- it works wonders!

As I began to do more research, I learned that diffusing essential oils is part of a holistic healing treatment known as “aromatherapy.” In aromatherapy, inhaling the steam from essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, and the beneficial molecules from the diffused oil then enter into the lungs, where they are then dispersed throughout the body. When the molecules reach the brain, they stimulate (or relax) the emotions. Diffusing different essential oils will, of course, produce different scents, but depending on the essential oil (or oil mixtures) that you use, you can also improve your mood, boost your immune system, improve sleep quality, treat headaches and migraines, and help with relaxation and meditation.

The library offers some great books on essential oils and aromatherapy, in particular through our Hoopla app, which will give you instant access to a plethora of useful titles on the subject. Perhaps one the best and most comprehensive offered through the Hoopla app is “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Worwood. Worwood’s book delves deep into not only the many essential oils that exist, but is also organized into chapters that give essential oil recommendations for specific individuals (men, women, children, athletes, travelers, etc.). Worwood further divides each individual type into a specific ailment or consideration that might pertain to them, for example, babies and young children should only be exposed to certain types of diffused oils and in specific ratios, due to their extra sensitive skin, so the book gives a good overview of what oils are appropriate for which age type to assist caregivers in diffusing appropriate oil types.

If you are new to diffusing essential oils, or essential oils in general, my best recommendation to start with is “the mother of all essential oils:” lavender. Lavender is a great essential oil that has a lot of utility and health benefits. It’s safe for babies (when diluted) and some recent evidence
shows it has been effective in reducing the symptoms of colic in babies (take note, restless parents!). It has a very flowery aroma, and is an antiseptic, antibiotic, and antidepressant. Lavender can also easily mix well with other essential oils like rose, grapefruit, and sweet orange, which smell great and have health benefits of their own. If properly diluted, lavender can also be applied topically to heal rashes and burns.

I have tried many different essential oils and oil blends, and I have a lot of favorites, but my personal favorite, both in terms of scent, health benefits, and mood relaxing properties, is frankincense. In case you ever wondered why one of the Magi presented frankincense to the baby Jesus; it is because it was highly prized due to its powerful rejuvenating and revitalizing qualities (perhaps you can also see the symbolism of the gift). Frankincense is a natural disinfectant that boosts the immune system, refreshes skin, can ease respiratory infection symptoms, and is, to me, the perfect essential oil for meditation. Frankincense is the yin to lavender’s yang. Lavender is soft and floral, frankincense by contrast, has a strong woody, smoky, earthy scent to it, which I really enjoy, but might not be to everyone’s liking. You can learn more about frankincense, and other seasonally relevant scents, myrrh, pine needle, mistletoe, and others from the article “Gifts of Healing… from Herbs of the Season” which can be found though our Gale Database section on the library website.

I hope that you check out what the library has to offer on aromatherapy, learn more, and try diffusing some oils yourself. As a thirty-five year old man, I never thought that I would be writing a column about essential oils, and my discovery of aromatherapy was very unlikely to say the least, but I am a believer in the benefits that it can offer. Remember, if you are new to using our Hoopla app, or would like assistance in setting it up, you can schedule a one-on-one tech appointment here at the library. We are happy to get you connected and on your way to learning more!

Brian DeFelice is the Technology Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for his article in the December 19, 2018 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Liz Reed

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