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Jan 07, 2013, 9:52 am
Uplifting scents: Understanding aromatherapy and how it is used
By Debi Neville

Leslie Halling, owner of Tranquility Base in Rochester, stresses the use of quality essential oils for aromatherapy. (Photo by Debi Neville)


  We Minnesotans are a hardy breed to withstand plummeting temperatures for three to four months but you must admit, it wears on you and can deplete your emotional stamina.

Because winter blues usually vanish on the tail of a spring breeze, a temporary fix for the affliction might be aromatherapy — using essential oils from plants for therapeutic benefits. Not to be considered a miracle cure, essential oils are used as a mood enhancer and to balance a person’s emotional state, providing a greater sense of well-being. It’s a non-invasive method that has been used for as long as mankind could experiment with nature. explains that aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, sending messages via the nervous system to the limbic system — the area of the brain that controls emotions.

As used by professionals

If you decide to leave aromatherapy up to the professionals, Rochester and the surrounding area offers a plethora of options.

Tranquility Base, located in Rochester’s Riverside Building, is owned and run by Leslie Halling. Along with other therapies, Halling is trained in the use of aromatherapy.

“I administer the high quality oils directly on the body. As an example, I might use drops on the spine, feather them into the skin. It depends on what clients are feeling as to what oils I choose to use,” she says.

The oil works with the body to ward off colds, sore throats, or a cough, perhaps. If a client is feeling down or lacks energy, there are particular oils for that as well.

What scents appeal to clients is another major consideration. If a woodsy smell is preferred, for example, Halling has a number to choose from. Some scents do the same as others so personal preference is important.

Just smelling some fragrances can set off a mental trip to another time and place.

“We hope that you are transported to a pleasant place, recalling happy, peaceful times. The smells are instrumental in doing that for nearly everyone,” Halling says.

Both Halling and Rosemary Schliep, a licensed massage therapist and owner of Garden of Massage in Rochester, stress the use of quality oils. However, Schliep says there is disagreement among professionals about what certifications constitute a quality oil. The oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“In order to get the full benefit, it must be a pure, unadulterated, essential oil,” says Schliep. “It must be natural, not synthetic. The power of the oils is amazing, but only if you really have a pure product.”

Perhaps someone has had a reaction to artificial oils, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t react positively to essential or “real oils.” 

Kim Musolf, of Massage Therapy by Kim in Rochester, uses peppermint and lavender nearly every day.

“I find those two are favorites,” she says. 

Lavender is associated with peace and tranquility. Peppermint can calm stomach issues or pain and is an antiseptic.

Other helpful oils may be eucalyptus, which is great for colds; ginger, which aids digestive problems; citrus, an antidepressant; frankincense, which is calming and patchouli, which is used for anxiety and depression, according to Schliep.  

Aromatherapy in your home

If you choose to buy essential oils and use them as a home remedy, make sure to understand what you are buying and use them as directed. 

There is a difference, Schliep says, between using essential oils that offer the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy and using products that give nice smells. 

“The big thing I see is that you can get a lot of products that are very poor quality and not even a natural essential oil,” Schliep says. 

Using items you have around your home is an easy and inexpensive way to gain the benefit of aromatherapy without much fuss or expense. Boiling a couple cups of water and adding several drops of your favorite oils will release the scent into the air almost immediately. If you are at work or a public place, use a tissue to absorb a drop of oil, then place it close by. As the air circulates, so will the aroma. You can smell oils directly from the bottle or use a diffuser. 

Schliep advises diluting essential oils in an oil base or lotion before applying them to the skin.

“There are some exceptions to this, but consult a professional,” she says. 

Other safety tips include keeping the oil out of eyes and mucus membranes and away from children and pets.

Debi Neville is a freelance writer based in Rochester.

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