There are two ways in which aromatherapy oils enter the body, through skin absorption and inhalation. Both methods have shown to have positive physical and psychological effects when applied to treatments such as massage and Incense burning and it’s important to understand the anatomical processes of both methods in order to assess an adequate treatment plan.
The main method of aromatherapy oils entering the body is through skin contact. The skin is the largest organ on the body and has several important functions which include: protecting the bones and organs from harm, controlling body temperature, sensitivity and waste excretion. It is primarily made up of two tissues: The Superficial Layer and The Dermis and within these layers are structures which all work in conjunction to the overall protection of the inner body.
The anatomical journey of oil absorption through massage begins on the very outer layer of the Epidermis called the ‘Strateum Corneum’ also known as the ‘horny level’. The skin here is partially permeable to fat and impermeable to water based substances. Luckily, essential oil particles are of an oil based consistency which are so small that they can pass through with ease!
The journey then continues on to the next 4 layers that make up the Epidermis which are: The Stratum Lucidum, Stratum Granulosum, Stratum Spinosum and Stratum Basale. These layers all hold their own unique properties but ultimately contribute toward the production of proteins that help keep the outermost layer of the skin healthy and protected.
The next important check point is the deeper layer of the skin called the Dermis. The Dermis is the thickest layer of the skin and comprises of connective tissue and superficial layers which are rich in blood supply. When massage oil is applied, it absorbs through the two layers of the Dermis (The Papillary Dermis and the Reticular Dermis) and then carries into the lymph glands and blood vessels where it transfers the molecules into the blood stream. From here, the particles are then diffused throughout the body via the cardiovascular system until eventually passing out of the body along with Carbon Dioxide.
When it comes to Incense burning, the molecules of the essential oil firstly filter through the Nasal passage and then pass through to the Pharynx. The Pharynx is a cone-shaped passageway that connects directly from the nose to the Oesophagus and Tonsils (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2015)
The function of the Pharynx is to allow warm moistened air to pass through to the Larynx, Trachea and Bronchi until ultimately entering the lungs. Once at the lungs, the two sponge like organs absorb the molecules through the Alveoli, and then pass them onto the heart which then pumps the healing properties of the essential oil around the body.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2015) ‘Pharynx | anatomy’, in Encyclopædia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/pharynx (Accessed: 19 October 2016).