Good things come in small packages,” is a well-known saying and it may well apply to essential oils. As they contain potent medicinal and cosmetic properties, these oils have been used for thousands of years for their healing and purifying qualities. To explore the various fragrances and oils and learn about their properties, The Navhind Times invited, NAHA (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy) certified clinical aromatherapist and founder of Ehi Passika, Kanchi Mehta, as a guest on the Talk from the Heart show that aired on Sunday, January 8 on the Goa 365 channel.

An artist, art historian and curator, Mehta spoke about her journey and how she switched to aromatherapy as a career. “I consider this a second life and feel very blessed,” she shared, “Certain physical events drew me to natural medicines and aromatherapy. The realisation that nature is our ultimate pharmacy kindled an interest and now a passion in this area.

Considered both an art and a science, aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being of the body, mind and spirit. “Ancient cultures like ours incorporated aromatic plant components in resins, balms and oils for centuries for medical and religious purposes,” informed Mehta and detailed the numerous benefits of this therapy. “These oils and fragrances have not just physical but also psychological benefits,” she added. Managing pain, improving sleep quality, reducing stress and anxiety, treating menopause, arthritis, headaches and migranes, boosting immunity, are just few of the areas where these oils can be of use. “Each essential oil has an array of unique healing properties, uses, and effects. Combining essential oils to create a synergistic blend creates even more benefits,” she stated.

Aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption using diffusers, inhalers, bathing salts, creams, lotions, etcetera. “When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain,” explained Mehta and further spoke about how aromatherapy which is a complimentary treatment should be used.

As with everything, aromatherapy too is surrounded by several myth; like, essential oils can be ingested or used directly on the skin, or if you are using these oils on your skin and there is a rash, it means your body is detoxing and other such misconceptions. Debunking these myths, Mehta gave several examples of the harmful effects of not using these oils carefully and knowledgeably.

Lavender, rosemary, tea tree, camomile, peppermint and lemongrass are some common essential oils that we know of. Today however the list of essential oils is long and the oils are also easily available. Cautioning against buying these across the counter, she said, “These oils are extremely concentrated extracts and are potent therefore it is important to know their chemical compositions before purchasing them.

Many other related topics were spoken and discussed at length.

The process of producing these oils is elaborate and uses the distillation method. “Various parts of a plant like flowers, bark, leaves or fruit are pressed or steamed to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. It can take several kilograms of a plant to produce a single bottle of essential oil,” she explained.

Besides essential oils, Mehta also makes customised fragrances and spoke about these in detail. “Every fragrance has a top, mid and base note and depending on the amount of each of the ingredients used, the fragrances come across as sweet, floral, woody, etcetera.