By Sue Ingebretson
Have you used aromatherapy to ease your fibromyalgia symptoms? Perhaps you’ve never given it much thought. Aromatherapy may not be commonly discussed at your doctor’s office, support group, or in your own living room. But after reading this article, I hope you take a second look at the healing benefits aromatherapy has to provide.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of aromatic compounds in a way that soothes, heals, and benefits the whole body. It can have a positive effect on both emotional and physical wellness.
What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
Because this article will focus on one way to incorporate aromatherapy into your healing practices (diffusing), we’ll just cover the basics here. Perhaps the most applicable fundamental benefits for fibromyalgia are the following:
1) Reduces tension and stress
2) Elevates the mood
3) Calms the senses
4) Supports mental clarity
5) Helps promote circulation
6) Evokes feelings of wellness and vitality
7) Soothes aching muscles and joints
I’m certain you’d agree that any improvement in these areas would prove beneficial. The therapeutic use of essential oils in aromatherapy has been practiced for nearly 6,000 years. These oils are the natural extracts of the roots, seeds, leaves, or blossoms of plants. They’re used for both physical healing and to promote emotional wellness.
Are you hyper-sensitive to smells or scents?
Many of us who deal with fibromyalgia symptoms are hyper-sensitive to smells, tastes, touch, sounds, and bright or flashing lights. Some smells can be particularly irritating or even harmful as they can trigger nausea, asthma, dizziness, headaches, and/or migraines.
It’s imperative to note the differentiating factors between true natural scents and those that are manufactured. I once took a long stroll along the high cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur, California. The dense forest grows right to the land’s end. With the ground covered in pine needles and trees at every turn, I was struck by the powerful, yet wonderful, clean-smelling scent. I had the sniffles at the time, and with each deep breath, I felt my sinuses clear as well as the cobwebs in my foggy head.
The aroma was the most amazing, earthy, fresh scent imaginable. I recall commenting that “Scent-Masters” should bottle the Big Sur air and blend it into laundry detergent.
This brings me to my next point. When any natural scent is artificially reproduced, chemicals are synthesized to re-create what Mother Nature does so beautifully on her own. These synthetic chemical components can set off our hyper-sensitive response. They can literally make us sick.
I’m sure you can relate to the fact that there’s a world of difference between taking a deep breath at the ocean’s edge in Big Sur and taking a big whiff of a pine-scented Christmas room deodorizer. I could probably conjure up a headache just thinking about that.
Air fresheners, room or carpet deodorizers, candles, scented detergents, cleaners, perfumes, bath and body products, etc., can all contain unhealthy and even toxic synthetic fragrances that negatively impact our health.
These are not to be compared to the natural compounds used in true therapeutic aromatherapy. Pure and natural essential oils (not synthetic blends) enhance or add to your health. Manufactured scents can detract from your health. Remember it this way:
Now that you know why it’s important to select only pure and natural essential oils for your aromatherapy experience, it’s time to get started.
How can I put aromatherapy to use?
The most common ways to use essential oils in therapeutic aromatherapy treatments are to use them topically, aromatically, and in bathing. We’ll focus here on the aromatic benefits derived from using an essential oil room diffuser.
What do I need to know before I buy?
I couldn’t wait to purchase my first diffuser.
That statement is quite telling. Yes, I have more than one. And yes, I jumped the gun when I made my first purchase. Therefore, I’d like to impart a few things I wish I’d known.
It’s important to ask yourself several questions before you buy. These questions will help you to narrow down the type of diffuser that will be well-suited for your needs as well as inform you of features that you may not be aware of at this stage.
Prices range dramatically, so that’s a consideration, too. Cheaper varieties start around $30 and climb to more expensive models priced at over $200.
Here are nine questions to get you started —
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- How often do you plan on using your diffuser? (Periodically or for longer periods of time?)
- What’s your intended budget and how much would you like to spend?
- Do you want it to be quiet or do you mind a low hum?
- Do you want it to use water so that it also humidifies the air?
- Do you want it to have a light/nightlight?
- If you prefer a light, would you like a solid color or rotating colors?
- Do you want it to have variable timer settings?
- Do you want it to have an automatic shutoff?
- Do you want it to have a large or low capacity (meaning it needs to be refilled more often)?
Don’t worry. You’re not required to have an answer for every question. In fact, if you’re an aromatherapy newbie, it’s likely that many of these questions are unfamiliar to you. It’s simply helpful to consider them in advance so that you can make an informed purchase.
Because there are dozens of types of diffusers, I’ll discuss just two basic categories of them here.
Nebulizer diffusers are the true “workhorse” of diffusers. They don’t require water to operate and the essential oil bottle is mounted directly to the machine. The oils are dispersed into the air in a higher concentration than with most other diffusers and can be very effective for larger rooms or buildings or when there’s a need to diffuse for longer periods of time.
Because of the method of diffusing (an atomizer that disperses super-fine, concentrated particles into the air), the scent may last longer in the room than other diffusers. The machine may hum while in operation which could be considered either soothing or annoying depending on your perspective.
Nebulizer diffusers are typically feature-rich, including a wide variety of timer settings for run times and rest times, large capacity operation, and no lights so they’re good to use in the bedroom at night. They’re very industrial-looking and, not surprisingly, very low maintenance.
Ultrasonic misting diffusers come in all ranges of design and function. A few drops of essential oils are placed into an interior reservoir with either tap or spring water. (Most ultrasonic diffuser manufacturers recommend against the use of distilled water. It may result in a mist that is over-diluted and less effective.)
Ultrasonic misting diffusers use sonic vibrations to create a cool mist or fog of oils that are fanned into the air. Therefore, they do (to a small degree) also humidify the air. This is either a plus or minus depending on the humidity levels of your area.
Many come with attractive lights that may be turned on or off. They may also feature timers that run from just a few minutes to several hours. Most manufacturers of ultrasonic diffusers recommend cleaning between each use. I’ve also read that some of the cheaper ultrasonic diffusers can become damaged by diffusing a lot of citrus oils, which can be harmful to inexpensive plastic parts. I have to say, though, that I diffuse citrus oils nearly every day and have not had a problem with any of my ultrasonic diffusers.
When I made my initial purchase, I googled several different types, read the reviews and quickly made a selection … completely ignoring what I’d just read. Rather than a pricey industrial-looking diffuser, I purchased one based solely on its adorably cute design.
I know … not very practical.
According to the popularity of the model I chose, however, I’m not alone. I figured that I’d be looking at it day after day while I work, so why not buy one that’s attractive?
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that beauty has its drawbacks. It happens to be a real pain in the patootie to open.
I’ve since learned how to gently place the lid on it, without fully interlocking the two pieces together, for easy re-opening. But it took me a while to finagle the process. Live and learn. I did read reviews stating that it was hard to open, but other reviews said it was easy. Now I know that it would be easy to open if only I had razorblade-thin fingernails with which to pry the lid.
Surprisingly, I’m still very satisfied with my first little diffuser. It works great, it looks great, and I use it every day. In fact, I loved it so much, I soon noted the absence of my favorite scents whenever I left my office. Subsequently, I purchased another diffuser to use in the kitchen and dining area, and then eventually a third to use in my bedroom.
There you have it – I have three diffusers and, believe it or not, I’m really jonesing for a fourth. I have a nebulizing diffuser on my wish list and am sharpening my pencil to write my letter to Santa very soon.
What other type of diffusers are there?
There are more varieties than can be detailed here. You can find diffusers made from wood, clay, glass, crystal, granite, and plastic. You can find diffusers for your car as well as ones to carry with you wherever you go.
You can even wear them. Diffuser pendant lockets are particularly attractive and come in beautiful designs in brass, silver, and gold.
Bring that spa experience into the home
For many of you, your only experience with a diffuser may have been in a spa environment. Why not bring that soothing, relaxing, luxurious-feeling experience into your own home?
There are dozens of essential oils to try and you can create your own tailor-made blends to suit your needs. Reach out to an aromatherapist for suggestions or start with basic options such as lemongrass, sweet orange, cinnamon, or peppermint. Use them individually or create your own favorite diffused blends!
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.
Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue’s free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.