Healing Through the Senses the Use of Aromatherapy in Addiction Treatment With Women Term Paper

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Many people regard the sense of smell of the least valuable of the five senses; however, experts today point out that the human olfactory system provides more environmental information than any of the other senses. Furthermore, while there has long been a firmly held belief among alternative medicine practitioners that specific types of fragrances could trigger specific changes in emotional states, recent findings by the 2004 Nobel Prize winners for Physics appear to scientifically validate these claims. As a healing modality, though, most authorities today believe that aromatherapy is many thousands of years old, dating back to the times of the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamia and ancient China (Ba, 2003). Today, aromatherapy represents a promising new addition to the traditional medicine for a wide range of conditions, including addiction in women. The goal of this paper is to support and validate my findings on the efficacy of aromatherapy used in substance abuse treatment programs for women who typically suffer from many symptoms related to early stages of recovery. The rationale for investigating the efficacy of aromatherapy relates to its potential to mediate the problems generally associated with substance abuse recovery such as sleep and mood disorders, anxiety and depression. To the extent that these associated conditions can be mediated is the extent to which this researcher believes the recovery process can be facilitated and the chances for success heightened.

Review and Discussion: Aromatherapy.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Healing Through the Senses the Use of Aromatherapy in Addiction Treatment With Women Assignment

Definitions and Background. Although people have been using what is considered to be aromatherapy today for several millennia, the distillation of plant essences is credited to Islamic alchemists; however, aromatherapy as it is practiced today has a much more recent history. According to Ba (2003), in 1937, a French perfumery chemist by the name of Renee Gatefosse was the first to coin the term "aromatherapie" to describe the application of volatile oils to produce a therapeutic response to various conditions and diseases typically experienced by humans. While the term may be new, the practice is truly ancient, and Price, Price and Peno l (1999) note that, "Plants and their extracts have been used since time immemorial to relieve pain, aid healing, kill bacteria and thus revitalize and maintain good health" (p. 1). While the word itself was not coined until the last century, the distilled extracts from plants -- the essential oils -- have been used by humankind for countless years in religious rites, perfumery and hygiene. According to Ba, cedarwood oil is known to have been used by the Egyptians for embalming and for hygienic purposes 5,000 years ago; this oil is most likely the first "distilled" oil to have been produced (although the process used remains open to speculation). Further, both the lavender plant along with its essential oil were used by Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century, and by the 15th century, it is believed that the essential oils of turpentine, cinnamon, frankincense, juniper, rose and sage were also known and used (Pignatelli, 1991). By the beginning of the 17th century, about 60 oils were known and used in perfumes and medicines (Price et al., 1999).

Surviving fragments of papyrus suggest that in the time of the pharaohs, the Egyptians considered the aroma of spices such as cinnamon as medicinal. Further, the traditional herbal medical practitioners of ancient Greece, Rome, India, and the Far East did not differentiate between medications and perfumes because both were believed to have medicinal properties. Other early societies recognized the therapeutic value of such preparations as well; traditional Chinese medicine recommended that brewed tea should be inhaled as well as ingested and fragrant medicinal baths are still widely used in Japan today. Similar yet different approaches were employed by other societies as well; for example, "forest therapy" in Germany involves inhaling eucalyptus and other arboreal vapors (Ornstein & Sobel, 1989). Despite these repeated instances of traditional medicines using the power of aroma to improve health, contemporary mainstream practitioners have frequently been skeptical concerning the efficacy of such alternative medicine approaches. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports the use of many of these alternative medicines in many healthcare settings in the West today.

Overview of Olfactory System. The olfactory system in humans works by transmitting information on odorant molecules from the nose to the brain; these odorant-receptor interactions then trigger neurons to send signals to the olfactory bulb, a structure located in the front of the brain (Brownlee, Perkins & Goho, 2004). These authors note that the olfactory bulb then relays information about the odor to thought and emotion centers in the brain's (Brownlee et al., 2004).

The primary feature of the olfactory system that plays a role in aromatherapy is that the specific plants employed are considered to have particular therapeutic powers (Crowder & Schab, 1995). Some examples of the reputed benefits of certain flowers are for jasmine to be an antidepressant, lavender to be an anxiolytic, rosemary to sharpen memory, and water-violet to promote tranquility and grace (Crowder & Schab, 1995). Future studies may be able to further refine the current views concerning the notion that particular odors, like specific drugs, can have specific effects on mood and physiology. Today, researchers do know that conditioning of specific reactions is a major influence of smell; further, people tend to have very different associations with odors, and therefore different responses to them (Ornstein & Sobel, 1989). They also know that the olfactory system is "the oldest and most complex sensory system capable of conveying environmental information across long distances" (How Does Chemical Exposure Impact the Sense of Smell?, 2003, p. 24).

The recent award of the Nobel Prize for Physics to Richard Axel of Columbia University and Linda Buck of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle for their work on olfactory genes supports the belief that specific types of aromas can trigger specific responses in humans. According to Brownlee et al., prior to the work by Axel and Buck, researchers knew little about the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying olfactory system. The authors note that previous anatomical studies had shown that olfactory neurons project hair-like cilia into the nasal cavity; however, scientists had been unable to identify the specific olfactory receptors on these cilia or to understand precisely how they worked. In the past, the olfactory system had been largely ignored by sensory scientists who were more interested in understanding the mechanisms of the other senses, such as sight and hearing; the reasons for this focus were twofold: 1) The sense of smell is the most expendable of human senses and 2) there was a paucity of scientific tools available for investigating this aspect of the human senses (Brownlee et al., 2004). Innovations in a DNA-copying technology known as polymerase chain reaction, however, allowed the researchers to identify the sites that encode olfactory receptors in rats. Since 1991 paper, the researchers have discovered more than 1,000 olfactory receptors in rats; however, the number discovered to date in humans is only around 350 (Brownlee et al., 2004). Based on their studies, scientists now estimate that these genes potentially allow a healthy person to distinguish and remember around 10,000 different scents (Brownlee et al., 2004).

The groundbreaking discovery of this specific family of genes in 1991 provided scientists with the opportunity to investigate the sense of smell using modern molecular- and cellular-biology techniques. Subsequent studies by Axel, Buck, and others have shown that each olfactory neuron expresses only one type of receptor on its surface. Scents that are comprised of several different odorant molecules bond to these receptors in a particular pattern; for instance, the odorant molecules that characterize the smell of sizzling bacon might stimulate only receptors 2, 45, and 54 (Brownlee et al., 2004). There may be a nostalgic factor involved, certainly, but the savvy practitioner will use whatever tools that have been proven to be effective notwithstanding the etiology of the approach. For example, subtle scents can remind people of childhood events, or traumatic experiences: "A whiff of vanilla may remind some of a fine wine," Ornstein and Sobel point out, "others of grandma's kitchen, the scent of an old lover, or a favorite piece of music, while still others may associate it with a terrible tasting medicine foisted upon a sick child" (p. 69). Because the olfactory sense provides human with more environmental information than the other senses, the current research into identifying specific receptors associated with specific odors has enormous potential for helping people with mood disorders in the future. According to Ornstein and Sobel, "It could well be helpful to understand and perhaps begin to organize our olfactory capabilities. We might be able to control our moods, concentration, and memories, all by smell" (1989, p. 70). Based on the current progress being made in this sphere, scientists may identify these receptors sooner than later.

Effects of Aromatherapy on Mind/Body. In her essay on the influence of pheromones on women's attraction to certain types of men based on their genetic compability, Furlow (1996)… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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