What Is Aromatherapy?


Aromatherapy uses a combination of oils and inhalation to improve psychological or physical well-being. Nurses use it to ease anxiety and stress, treat colds and coughs, reduce pain in cancer patients and help people sleep during a medical procedure.

It may also make needle sticks less painful for people receiving dialysis or decrease nausea and vomiting for children undergoing tonsillectomy. Aromatherapy has a low risk of side effects when used as directed.


Aromatherapy is a popular trend right now, but it has been used for thousands of years in ancient cultures. It involves using essential oils, which are derived from aromatic plants via steam distillation and other extraction techniques. It uses the inhalation and topical application of these fragrant oils to promote mental/emotional well-being.

The use of aromatic plants for therapeutic, spiritual and hygienic purposes is documented in ancient India, China, Egypt, Greece, Rome and medieval Europe. In the 10th century, the Arabs discovered distillation, which produced purer oils. This enabled them to create perfumes and medicine.

The term “aromatherapy” was first coined in 1937 by Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French perfumer and chemist. He found that when lavender oil was applied to a severe burn on his hand, it healed quickly and efficiently. He published several articles and books on the subject of essential oils and their healing properties. His work helped to further the popularity of this therapeutic practice.


Whether they are diluted for massage or used in a vaporizer, essential oils can help improve mood, reduce stress and tension, soothe anxiety, irritability and depression, relieve cold and cough symptoms and promote sleep. They can also enhance the effectiveness of other therapeutic treatments.

Aromatherapists use essential oils to help treat physical or emotional conditions, and often recommend certain oils for particular purposes. For example, if you want to boost your energy levels, try essential oils such as peppermint or bergamot. Oils that promote a sense of calm include lavender, chamomile and basil.

Before beginning aromatherapy, talk to your doctor about your goals and any symptoms you’re experiencing. You may be advised to avoid some oils or use them with caution, especially in infants and pregnant women. And be sure to keep these essential oils out of the reach of children and pets. They’re highly concentrated and can be dangerous if ingested or sprayed on sensitive skin.


As with any oil, you must be aware of the potential side effects of aromatherapy. It is best to use essential oils with the guidance of a trained aromatherapist, nurse, doctor, physical therapist or massage therapist.

Before using any aromatherapy product, look for a label that indicates the Latin name of the oil and any other information about purity or other ingredients added to it. Also, choose dark-colored bottles to protect the quality of your oils from light and heat.

Avoid ingesting any essential oils except under the guidance of a professional, as it can be dangerous or even fatal. Essential oils should be applied to the skin only in a well-diluted form. Some oils can cause irritation if they come into contact with the mucus membranes, such as the eyes or throat. If an oil irritates you, rinse with a cold compress or vegetable oil. If a serious reaction occurs, call the Victorian Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 seven days a week for poisoning advice or to report an adverse drug event.


Aromatherapy uses essential oils — concentrated plant extracts that retain their natural smell and flavor, or “essence.” These are distilled from parts such as roots, seeds, flowers, bark and leaves. They can be inhaled or diluted and applied to the skin. There are more than 90 types of essential oils, and they’re often associated with specific health benefits.

These oils are believed to work by stimulating the olfactory receptors in your nose and transmitting messages to parts of your brain that control emotions and body functions. They’re often used to treat symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, although they’re not considered a replacement for professional treatment.

Avoid products labeled as “fragrance oils.” These may contain essential oils combined with chemicals or synthetics and can cause reactions. Look for a pure oil that has no additives and is stored away from heat, light and air. Then, add water or another base oil to the oil before using it on your skin.