As this is turning into a monster post, let's cut to the chase: how can aromatherapy help us? And how can it help us when we're in the middle of a war?
Day to day, it can help in a number of ways.
In France and Germany, many medical doctors use aromatherapy instead of drugs, to treat even the most serious illnesses.
For minor physical ailments and illnesses, aromatherapy can help in amazing ways, with none of the toxic drawbacks of drugs (as long as the proper dosing is followed, and no-one drinks a whole bottle - it's v.v.v.v concentrated stuff and should be used wisely and in an informed way.)
- Teatree oil, one drop applied neat to a wart, will kill it in a safe, painless, gentle way within a month.
- Lavender oil applied to the temple can disappear headaches as fast as accamol, and in a much less toxic way
- Chamomile is a natural anti-histamine, and can clean up itchy, hayfever eyes and allergic skin rashes (although essential oils should NEVER be applied to the eyes)
- Helichrysum can heal sprains and radically speed up the healing process of wounds
- Many essential oils are anti-bacterial and disinfectant, proven to kill off all sorts of germs, spores and moulds
- Tea tree is an unrivalled - and lasting - cure for 'thrush'
- A mix of eucalyptus, bergamot, geranium and lavender can kill nits dead - without using harmful chemicals.
Aromatherapy can do all this, and also give us better skin, and a good night's sleep, and get rid of our athlete's foot.
Subtle or spiritual aromatherapy
The real essence of aromatherapy, at least for believing Jews, at least for Emunaroma, is how it can help us to reconnect to our real selves, and help us to better serve Hashem. This is the realm of subtle aromatherapy, where aroma can be used to affect the brain, and our reactions and feelings and emotions, a field that's called psychoneuroimmunology.
As we said, the limbic system is the seat of our primitive and deep-rooted feelings and emotions. That's the place that makes us want to eat the chocolate cake, even though we know it's bad for us. That's the place we react from when we yell at our kids; or when we feel frozen with fear, even though we've just said the whole sefer tehillim.
The limbic system governs what's called our 'fight, flight or freeze' reactions, those knee-jerk reactions that we appear to have no control over.
Again, I am summing up a whole bunch of stuff instead of explaining it in detail because it would take a few months to properly do it justice.G-d willing, i'll return to this again in the future in more detail, but for now let's just set out some basic principles:
- The pure, distilled aroma of a plant is equated in many places with the plant's essence, or soul, hence the name 'essential oil'.
- Essential oils can't be replicated in labs - they are made direct by Hashem, and you can't get the same therapeutic properties with synthetics, even good synthetics
- As Rebbe Nachman wrote, the essence of these herbs can help to heal people, spiritually and physically, with G-d's help
- People are attracted to the scents they 'need' - and repulsed by the scents they don't need
- Essential oils have effects that are physical (ie wart-killing); physiological (ie, relaxing the body to make it easier to sleep) and spiritual / psychological (ie, picking people 'up' when they're down; pulling people out of depression; imparting a sense of well-being; imparting a sense of purification, to name but a few.)
With a bit of guidance and knowledge to know which oil to use, and how, essential oils can go a very long way to helping us become the most relaxed, calm, centred, truthful and healthy people we can be.
Tips to keep stress down
I want to end tonight with a few tips that are guaranteed to keep our stress levels down, regardless of the craziness going on in the world.
- Talk to G-d for an hour a day - this works for everyone, every time, in every situation.
- Remember Rav Arush's three rules of emuna - and apply them to everything going on right now. No rocket can come anywhere near you, unless Hashem wants it to. Remember Hashem loves you, and then breathe out.
- Turn off the news and stop reading the papers - even the 'frummy' ones. The neighbours or your kids will tell you everything you need to know
- Try to get to bed by 10pm every night. When we don't sleep enough, or early enough, we don't recharge properly, and we wake up feeling stressed and on the back foot.
- Take a bath with some relaxing 'sedative' oils before going to bed (you don't need more than 5-6 drops per bath)
- Try to get at least 20 mins of exercise 3 times a week - the minimum you need to keep feelings of depression at bay
- Eat well, or at least, eat better - lots of fruits and veg.
- Remember G-d loves us. Exactly how we are. Unconditionally.