The healing power of smell: Ayurveda and aromatherapy


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Aromatherapy existed centuries ago, right from the day people started using herbs and oils to treat diseases. Though this did not happen in the Western system of medicine, it happened way back in the science of life or what is called Ayurveda. Ayurvedic system of medicine used the power of smell for a lot of cures and treatments. Ayurvedic physicians understood that smell can have a huge impact on the brain and thereby, the other functions of the body. They used aromatherapy as a supplementary form of ayurvedic treatment. This article will explore more on the connection between modern aromatherapy and ayurveda.

The power of smell: It is said that about 80 percent of us sense the flavor of an item only through smell. The sense of smell is so powerful that it can arouse our appetite, warn us in case of danger (like fire), kindle our sexual self and elicit a surge of deep-seated memories in our mind. Smell gains power from the fact that it is connected with emotion-generating areas of the brain or the limbic system. It works like this: when you inhale an aroma, you stimulate the tiny membranes of your nose which in turn trigger electric signals to the hypothalamus of your brain. The hypothalamus is the seat of various activities of the body and controls and integrates parts of the nervous system, endocrine system, heartbeat, respiration, sexual arousal and blood sugar levels. The limbic system also wields power over the most basic emotions in your body like anger, pleasure, sadness, fear etc. So, when an aroma hits your nose membranes, it immediately makes an impact on your brain and thereby, the other parts of the body. This happens instantly, unlike the medications and drugs (which take time to dissolve into the blood stream) and hence, plays a great role in relieving people of pain and diseases.


Ayurveda and aromatherapy: As mentioned earlier, the ancient science of ayurveda has an age-old history of use of essential oils. It can be said that ayurvedic physicians used a lot of herbs and oils that it became the base on which the medicinal system was built. Ayurveda is based on the notion that the entire universe is composed of five elements and that three of these elements – Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth & Water) control the body. These elements have to be in right balance for the body to function well and in case of any imbalance, there is disease or what is otherwise called ‘dosha’.

Ayurvedic essential oils: Ayurveda uses aromatherapy to treat the Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas. This can be done by inhaling or massaging specific essential oils or oils that would balance the particular dosha. This is a quick way to heal trauma and disease as the aroma instantly starts working along with the brain. Remedies for Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas.

1. Essential oils for Vata dosha: Basil, Orange, Geranium, Rose and Clove oils work well in treating Vata dosha. They cultivate positive emotions and joy to keep fear and sorrow at bay.

2. Essential oils for Pitta dosha: Sandalwood, Rose, Mint, Cinnamon, Jasmine oils are good cures for Pitta dosha. These oils work by inducing creativity and enthusiasm as a replacement to irritability and anger.

3. Essential oils for Kapha dosha: Pungent aromatic oils like Eucalyptus, Juniper, Camphor, Clove and Marjoram can stimulate sociability and happiness and cure Kapha dosha.