What Is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy uses scented oils for psychological and physical well-being. Lavender oil, for example, is calming and promotes sleep, while rosemary, fennel or peppermint oil may relieve headaches.

Inhaling essential oils through a diffuser or applying them to the skin are popular ways to use them. Because they are strong, they should always be diluted before inhaling or using them on your body.


The practice of aromatherapy is based on the use of volatile plant oils (essential oils) for therapeutic, spiritual and hygienic purposes. Its use dates back to ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

It was Hippocrates who recommended aromatic baths for health purposes and that essential oils could be used as antiseptics. But the science behind the use of plant essences didn’t gain momentum until the 1920’s when French chemist Gattefosse discovered the healing properties of Lavender essential oil and coined the term “aromatherapy”. This was followed by Marguerite Maury, an Austrian Biochemist who established that the oils are absorbed through the skin and Robert Tisserand who wrote the first book in English on the art of aromatherapy. It is now more popular than ever before.


The basic principle of aromatherapy is that essential oils can be used to strengthen the body’s self-healing process by indirectly stimulating the immune system. Certain aromas are believed to invigorate, relieve fatigue, lower anxiety and promote relaxation – for example, the scent of lavender is thought to encourage sleep, while jasmine stimulates alertness.

People who believe in aromatherapy often come from communities that place a large emphasis on holistic and alternative medicine. They may also feel a deep connection to nature and the earth. It is often claimed that these individuals can heal themselves by using the techniques of aromatherapy, and even cure serious diseases such as cancer. It is suggested that this is due to the placebo effect of this therapy, a form of mind over matter.


Patients experiencing insomnia, lack of appetite and depression can benefit from aromatherapy. Essential oils are believed to stimulate certain parts of the brain, causing changes in mood and decreasing anxiety.

A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that diffusion of frankincense, lavender and ylang ylang oil significantly improved sleep quality and duration and decreased symptom scores on the ESASr compared to placebo. Patients also reported a positive sense of well-being and calmness.

The odors of some essential oils can be irritating or cause allergic reactions on the skin. People should use only diluted oils, and they should never take essential oils by mouth or place them in the eyes. Taking them by mouth could damage the liver and kidneys, as well as cause seizures in some people.


During aromatherapy sessions, a practitioner applies diluted essential oils to your skin or diffuses them into the air. You may also inhale them through steam inhalation, a vaporizer or by placing the oil in a cloth and holding it to your nose.

Aromatherapy is not well studied, so it’s not clear whether it’s effective in treating some complaints. However, some studies suggest that certain scents can help relieve anxiety and depression. Others show that peppermint oil may relieve headaches and migraines.

Before you try aromatherapy, ask your health care provider and a registered aromatherapist about it. They should be able to answer your questions and give you a list of qualified practitioners in your area.


While aromatherapy may provide a number of benefits, it is important to use caution. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be poisonous if not properly used or diluted. Additionally, some oils may interact with prescription drugs or irritate the skin or eyes.

Always dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin, and always keep them out of the reach of children. It is also advisable to consult a doctor before beginning an aromatherapy treatment, especially when dealing with serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure or epilepsy.

Look for bottles that clearly list the Latin name of the oil and information on its purity or other ingredients added to it. Choose dark-colored glass bottles, as light can cause the oils to deteriorate.