The Use of Essential Oils in Ayurvedic Skincare
The term “essential oil” is a contraction of the original “quintessential oil.” This stems from the Aristotelian idea that matter is composed of four elements, namely, fire, air, earth, and water. The fifth element, or quintessence, was then considered to be spirit or life force. Distillation and evaporation were thought to be processes of removing the spirit from the plant and this is also reflected in our language since the term “spirits” is used to describe distilled alcoholic beverages such as brandy, whiskey, and eau de vie. The last of these again shows reference to the concept of removing the life force from the plant. Nowadays, of course, we know that, far from being spirit, essential oils are physical in nature and composed of complex mixtures of chemicals.
Essential oils are a complex mixture of chemicals that profoundly influence our physiology.
Essential oils are the extracted essences from plants, flowers, and roots that contain numerous chemical compounds and powerful antioxidants. Although essential oils express a smell, it is important to know that they are also a complex mixture of chemicals that influence our physiology in profound ways. For example, sesquiterpenes are chemicals found in sandalwood essential oil, and are clinically studied for reducing cancer cells. Eugenol, a chemical in clove essential oil, gives it its strong antibacterial and antifungal affects. Farnesol, a chemical in rose essential oil, is used in luxury skincare formulas to stimulate collagen production.
Smell receptors exist through out our entire body.
Our olfactory smell receptors exist through out our entire body. Researchers say that these complex receptors, are now known to carry out responses to chemicals in aroma that do not have anything to do with their smell. In a recent article about olfactory receptors published in the New York Times, sandalore, a synthetic form of sandalwood essential oil, instigated molecular signals that induce healing in injured tissue.
The skin is our largest organ.
In ayurveda we use essential oils topically to repair the skin and to treat specific imbalances. The skin is our largest organ. What we put on our skin we consume. Just like a nicotine patch or progesterone cream, medicated oils enter the blood and lymphatic circulation and saturate every organ in our body. Helichrysum reduces nerve pain. Geranium balances oil production. Frankincense softens wrinkles.
Because essential oils are extremely potent, and can burn the skin if used at their full concentration, they are diluted in a carrier oil. At Hamsa, we use vegetable oils or seed oils that have been extracted using the latest Co2 technology to maintain its efficacy. Grapeseed oil is light and is best for kapha type skin imbalances (congested skin, black heads, pour lymphatic flow). Castor oil is a natural exfoliant and reduces pitta skin imbalances such as cystic acne. Pomegranate seed and rosehip seed nourish vata skin imbalances such as premature aging and dehydration.
A Personal Blend Should Consider The Physiologic Effect Of The Oil & Its Aroma
When crafting a personalized blend, the actual aroma of the essential oils is carefully considered. The ability for smell to induce feeling is widely known. Consumer researchers, for example, advocate using aroma to influence shopping behavior to retailers. Floral scents are known to increase spending in retail stores and hotels. While scents of orange and spice work best in homegoods stores. Studies show that certain scents increase performance and concentration, while others uplift the emotions.
Essential Oils Reduce Doshic Tendencies
Smell is one of our oldest senses and is most closely tied to areas of the brain associated with memory and emotion. According to ayurvedic aromatherapy, stimulating essential oils such as cinnamon awaken the senses and are best for kapha. Essential oils like orange blossom help balance the mind and are best for vata. Amyris reduces fiery emotions and is best for pitta.
A true ayurvedic skincare regiment considers the emotional/mental tendencies of the user as well as the physical benefits. Essential oils act on the physical body and the emotional body. At Hamsa, our skin serums are applied topically to address the skin imbalances prone to each type. We suggest rubbing the serum between the hands and using it as an inhalation therapy to benefit from the aroma of each serum.