Aromatherapy uses concentrated extracts from the roots, seeds, bark, or blossoms of plants to promote healing. They can be inhaled or applied to the skin.
Some studies show that aromatherapy can reduce anxiety and pain, especially in people with cancer. It can also help patients sleep better. But some questions remain.
Aromatherapy is a therapeutic use of essential oils, which are concentrated extracts from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of certain plants. Oils are believed to contain special chemical compounds that can affect the body’s emotions and physical well-being in different ways. They can stimulate, balance, or calm the nervous system, for example.
People have been using plants for medicinal, cosmetic and aromatic purposes for thousands of years. Early records show that Indian, Chinese and Egyptian civilizations used these oils. Theophrastus, a Greek philosopher, recorded one of the first studies of fragrances and their effects in 370-285BC.
It was French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who coined the term “aromatherapy” in 1928 after he burned his hand in a laboratory explosion and treated it with lavender oil. During World War II, Jean Valnet, an army doctor, used aromatherapy for soldiers to relieve stress and help heal gangrene. It was during this time that the first aromatherapy books were written.
Aromatherapy can be used at home using scented oils, and many people do. You should always dilute the oil before applying it to your skin, as undiluted oils can irritate your skin or cause other side effects such as burns and headache. It is also important to avoid ingesting essential oils, as they can be toxic when taken by mouth.
Before an aromatherapy treatment, a qualified aromatherapist will take a full medical history and discuss your lifestyle and diet. Aromatherapists will then advise you on a suitable blend of aromatherapy oils and methods of use to suit your needs. Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy and should be used alongside any other treatments you are receiving for your health condition, including medications.
Aromatherapy uses natural essential oils derived from plants to improve emotional and physical well-being. You can use essential oils topically, inhaled or dissolved in a carrier oil. Aromatherapy can help relieve symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments, such as nausea, pain, fatigue or anxiety. It can also aid in sleep, reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Some of the most commonly used oils include frankincense, lavender and chamomile. People coping with cancer or undergoing treatment often struggle with insomnia and can benefit from sleep-inducing aromatherapy blends.
When shopping for aromatherapy products, avoid those containing synthetic ingredients (often listed as fragrance oils on the ingredient label). Make sure that you choose genuine essential oils that are certified pure. The best way to find quality, therapeutic grade essential oils is to purchase a kit that includes the tools you need to create your own aromatherapy skin and hair care products, such as a sugar scrub or bath salts.
Most topical and inhaled aromatherapy oils are considered safe, but ingesting essential oil can be fatal. Children, infants and women who are pregnant should use essential oil only under the guidance of a trained professional.
Before purchasing or using a product, check the label to make sure it is pure and that no other ingredients — such as synthetic fragrances — have been added. Choose dark-colored bottles to protect the oil from sunlight, which can degrade it over time and taint its scent.
Further research is needed to determine how essential oils might affect children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and how they might interact with certain medications and other treatments. Aromatherapy should never be used as a substitute for medical treatment. It can, however, be used as a complementary therapy for many conditions. Consult with a doctor or massage therapist to learn whether aromatherapy can help you.