Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils and extracts from plants to soothe or treat a person's body and spirit. An aromatherapy pillow is a pillow that can be used behind the head, around the neck, on the back, or over the face and eyes to help with relaxation, stress relief and pain management. Typically filled with dry rice, herbs, and/or essential oils, aromatherapy pillows are found in many stores that cater to the holistic health community.
Essential oils used in aromatherapy enter the body in two ways – by inhalation and by absorption through the skin. When products used in an aromatherapy pillow are inhaled, signals are sent to the brain’s limbic system, where emotions and memory are processed. The limbic system regulates the body’s heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels and hormone balance; and because of this, it is believed that aromatherapy can produce positive physiological and psychological effects. Aromatherapy oils that are absorbed through the skin work on the lymphatic system in a similar way. An aromatherapy pillow not only facilitates the inhalation method of aromatherapy, but it also works to introduce essential oils directly to the skin.
The basic ingredients of an aromatherapy pillow are rice, aromatic herbs, spices and essential oils, although other ingredients, such as flax seeds, may be used. These components are usually wrapped in soft fleece, silk, cotton, or other comfortable fabrics. Many aromatherapy pillows are constructed with zippered fabric coverings to make washing them easy and to add additional aromatherapy oils and herbs as needed.
Aromatherapy pillows come in many styles, colors and shapes. Many aromatherapy pillows are U-shaped to wrap around the neck. Others are similar to blindfolds or sleeping masks and are placed over the sinus and eye areas. People with chronic back problems can use an aromatherapy pillow specifically designed for the back to relieve pain along the spine and across the lower back and hips. Some aromatherapy pillows are also designed to provide gentle acupressure, which can aid in relieving sinus issues and insomnia, or to stimulate circulation and clear the body of toxins.
Some aromatherapy pillows can be heated or chilled, depending on the application needed. They may be heated in the microwave for a few minutes to place on sore muscles and to further release the scent of the essential oils. An aromatherapy pillow may also be placed in the freezer and used similarly to a cold pack with the added benefit of being more pliable than a conventional ice pack.