Day 2: Experience
"If we breathe the scent of goodly grass, the fragrance of spices, the aroma of good fruits, we pronounce a blessing over the pleasure."
~ Shmuel Yosef Agnon
Welcome back goddess!
Yesterday, we discussed the importance of understanding what is in your beauty and skincare products. We learned about how the ambiguous terms "fragrance" and "parfum" are actually quite misleading. And we rounded out our day by attempting to avoid products with those terms listed as ingredients. How do you think you handled yesterday's challenge? Are you ready for more?
Yesterday, we touched on the topic of how aromatherapy works in our challenge. But today, we are going to put that knowledge to the aromatherapy test. But before we do, let's really break down what aromatherapy is and what it is not. We'll also discover whether or not all aromatic fragrances, whether natural or artificial, give us the same scent-sual experience.
- So what exactly is aromatherapy?
- Should you consider aromatic products made with artificial fragrances as aromatherapeutic?
Aromatherapy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the "inhalation or bodily application (as by massage) of fragrant essential oils (as from flowers and fruits) for therapeutic purposes." For commercial reasons, it seems, that definition has since expanded to include non-essential oil based aromatic compounds. Think about how often you may have heard the term aromatherapy in connection with a candle or room spray formulated with broadly-defined ingredients such as "fragrance". Going back to yesterday's challenge, you will remember that many manufacturers include a mix of potentially toxic artificial compounds within the overarching ingredient known as "fragrance."
Such ingredients may include phthalates to help extend the duration of the smell unnaturally (and which has potential links to cancer-causing agents). Or they may include artificial compounds that mimic the beautiful and natural aromas of essential oils derived from fruits, herbs, or bark. And of course, fragrances may include artificial compounds that mimic natural aromas of fruits, herbs, or bark from which essential oils can not be extracted. For example, "apple fragrances" are often sold falsely as "apple essential oils" even though essential oils cannot actually be extracted from apples. What you are smelling is actually a mixture of artificial aromatic compounds combined with natural ones to create an apple-like smell.
And yes, we said falsely sold as essential oils. How can you tell? By the process in which the aroma was extracted.
Essential oils are often mistakenly lumped in with other oils extracted from plants simply because of the fact that they are oil in nature. You often hear of people referring to the oils of frankincense and myrrh gifted to the young baby Jesus in the Bible as essential oils. However, to qualify as an essential oil, the oil must have been extracted by one of a few particular processes, processes which most likely did not exist during those times. Oils extracted by different means may not actually capture the essence of the plant, hence, they may not be "essential" oils.
Essential oils are most commonly extracted by either steam distillation, cold pressing, or solvent extraction, although CO2 extraction has become more commonplace as well. They contain only naturally volatile (think easily evaporative) compounds of the plant from which it is derived -- the essence of its fragrance. Contrast this with what you generally inhale in a perfume, cologne, or fragrance. That aroma includes artificial chemical components not necessarily derived from plants or natural oils not extracted by one of the processes mentioned above.
Put plainly, an essential oil contains the aromatic essence of the plant it was produced from with no added artificial compounds. A traditional department store perfume may have essential oils in it, but it will also contain man-made, potentially toxic, chemical compounds (not usually disclosed in detail to you the consumer).
It is important to keep this distinction in mind when it comes to aromatherapy, because true aromatherapy should not include artificial chemical compounds. True aromatherapy uses only what nature gives us.
So the next time you see someone mention an aromatic product in the conjunction with aromatherapy, you may want to inquire as to what is in the ingredient list, if there even is one. The biggest giveaway that is not actually an aromatherapy product should be whether or not the terms "fragrance" or "parfum" are listed as ingredients. That is oftentimes the best indicator that there is more than just essential oils making up that scent.
While these products may smell lovely, you just want to keep in mind that they are not for aromatherapy and you should not expect to feel exactly the same way you would feel if you smelled its natural counterpart.
So let's get to the fun part! Let's experience the difference! Remember, true aromatherapy uses essential oils -- and only essential oils -- for therapeutic healing. Now it's up to you to see if you can feel the difference between an artificially fragranced product and a naturally fragranced one. Because, wisdom gained from experience is often the best guru.
Alright, goddess. Your challenge for today is this:
Pick 1-2 fragrance profiles you have around your home to compare and contrast. One aroma should be the natural version, and the other an artificial replica. Here are a couple of examples of fragrant products that you may have lying around:
- A fresh lemon vs a lemon-scented cleaner
- A fresh orange vs an orange-scented lotion
- Coffee beans vs a coffee scented candle
- A rose vs a rose-scented perfume
- Lavender essential oil vs lavender-scented body wash
Again, try to pay attention to how you are feeling during this challenge. How does inhaling the natural aroma make you feel compared to the artificial aroma? Try to describe how you feel:
- Physically: What sensations do you feel in your body (dizzy, headache, nauseous)? Are your muscles beginning to relax or tense? Do you notice a change in your breathing?
- Mentally: Do you feel more or less alert, focused, balanced? If you were feeling overwhelmed before, how do you feel after smelling each item?
- Emotionally: Do you feel more or less uplifted, joyful, excited? Which one made you feel stronger emotionally?
- Energetically: Did you feel more energized, reinvigorated, or relaxed after smelling either item and, if so, which one?
Be sure to journal or meditate for five minutes on how your experiment went, what you noticed, and how you felt. And just like yesterday, be sure to post on IG stories something you are really grateful to have learned today using the hashtag #sacredaromachallenge .
Use the experience you gained today in your journey towards sacred beauty to recognize how aromatherapy can affect your body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Your sense of smell is a much more powerful healing modality than you may have realized. While it cannot guarantee to heal all physical ailments, you can rest assured knowing that it can heal you in ways you never thought needed healing before. In realizing this, you may just be more careful before purchasing another fragranced beauty product. You may just begin to ask if you deserve more from your beauty and skincare routine. Something deeper than skin. Something more sacred than physical beauty.
The more you know about what goes into your fragrances, the more you know about what you are putting into and onto your body. Which means the better you can care for it. Wellness is wealth. Your mind, spirit, and body temple all deserve to be wealthy.