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What Is Aromatherapy? – Benefits & Uses

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses fragrant extracted oils made from flowers, wood, and herbs for therapeutic benefits. These concentrated oils are breathed in and can also be used as a lotion for massages and aromatic baths. It has been going on for centuries and is still used worldwide today. Different concentrated oils (natural essences) can be mixed and blended to make a combination for various needs.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) official website of the United States government on their Health & Education index in reference to the work published ‘Essential Oils’ states that: “Essential oils, which are obtained through mechanical pressing or distillation, are concentrated plant extracts that retain the natural smell and flavor of their source. Each essential oil has a unique composition of chemicals, and this variation affects the smell, absorption, and effects on the body. The chemical composition of an essential oil may vary within the same plant species, or from plant to plant. As an example of how concentrated essential oils are, 220 pounds of lavender flowers are required to produce approximately one pound of lavender oil. Synthetic oils are not considered true essential oils.” 1

As the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) states in their work

‘Aromatherapy Everyday Basics’ Essential Oil Tips and Recipes for Health and Wellness exposed in the Digital Publishing Platform (Issuu): “It’s well-known that we’re all wired so aromas trigger emotions and memories. In fact, the postage stamp-sized olfactory lobe, which is in charge of smell, is also part of the limbic system, which manages emotions and long-term memories.”

The therapeutic properties of plant oils have long been used to support optimal health and wellness, including to balance emotions, disinfect, and create pleasing environments. Today, the practice of aromatherapy is becoming more popular than ever—in the mainstream medical community and in the holistic health community. 2

Many benefits are attributed to aromatherapy use, but the most common ones are for stress, anxiety, and for those who have trouble sleeping.

Essences can be used with vaporizers, fragrance lamps, candles, incense, oil burners, and electric diffusers. If you do not have any of these at home, you can also add some drops of the preferred oil to a pot with boiling water, helping spread the fragrance. They can also be mixed with base oils in order to use them as a lotion. But before using any aromatherapy oil, make sure you have had the proper advice and guidance from a specialist, since the wrong fragrance may produce allergies or a counterproductive effect.

Just as the ‘Aromatherapy Everyday Basics’ work published by the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) clearly explains: “Everyone is an individual. So, it’s important to recognize that each person has a unique metabolism, vitality, and physical makeup. For example, an acceptable dose for a 45-year-old female in good health may not be appropriate for her 75-year-old frail uncle or for her 20-year-old daughter.

Plants are powerful, which is why it’s important to know how much of an essential oil or herb is beneficial, and how much is toxic. You’ll hear the term low therapeutic margin used in both aromatherapy and herbal medicine. What this means is that the difference between a therapeutic dose and a harmful dose is a very small amount.

The important thing to remember about these plants: the difference between a helpful dose and a harmful dose can be mere drops! Don’t make the mistake of increasing dosage to increase benefits—less is more.” 3

There are loads of ways to get those marvelous molecules in the air!  From wafting a tissue under your nose to using a gorgeous ultrasonic mister.   As far as which is the best, there are so many factors with regard to essential oil diffusion that it really comes down to personal choice and what works best for your situation. 4

Diffusion is an effective way to disperse essential oils into the air. Once released into the air, an oil’s specific aroma can be used to create a desired atmosphere, like the fresh and invigorating aroma of Citrus paradisi, which can also be a mood boost. In addition, the beneficial properties of the oil are released into the air and inhaled, similar to the pathway essential oils take in nature when plants release them into the air.” 5

Benefits you get from different aromatherapy oils:

Activates and strengthens the immune system:

Peppermint, lemon, frankincense, eucalyptus, and cinnamon.

Faster pain relief:

Everlasting (Helichrysum), calendula, lavender, and buckthorn.

Mitigates depression:

Chamomile, lavender, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, juniper, and jasmine.

Relieves and prevents headaches:

Sandalwood, peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary. These can also be mixed with sesame, almond, and avocado oils and used as a lotion for massaging purposes.

Boosts body and mind energy levels:

Cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, jasmine, and clove.

Helps increase blood circulation:

Eucalyptus, black pepper, cypress, and ginger.

Minimizes depression:

Jasmine, chamomile, lavender and peppermint.

Provides a restful sleep

Ylang-ylang, rose, sandalwood, lavender, and chamomile.

Increases memory retention:


Help reduce stress and anxiety    

Bergamot, lemon, lavender, peppermint, ylang-ylang, and vetiver.

A study published in the Health Guidance for Better Health Organization named The Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Aromatherapy addresses that: “Lavender essential oil acts as a mild sedative and promotes deep sleep. In the study, 31 healthy sleepers spent three nights in a sleep lab: one to adapt to the study, the next with lavender oil administered into the air and the third with a control (distilled water) stimulus.

The lavender:

  • Increased the percentage of deep or slow-wave sleep in men and women.
  • Increased stage 2 (light) sleep.
  • Decreased rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep.

Further, all the participants reported higher vigor the morning after the lavender exposure.

According to the Health Guidance for Better Health Organization Aromatherapy is receiving more attention from researchers as an effective and safe treatment option.” 6

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) on their published work Aromatherapy -What you need to know’ show and explain that: “Different oils have different uses and effects.

  • Lavender essential oil can also be used as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns and to enhance relaxation. It is said to relieve headache and migraine symptoms.
  • Basil essential oil is used to sharpen concentration and alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. It may relieve headaches and migraines. It should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Bergamot essential oil is said to be useful for the urinary tract and digestive tract. When combined with eucalyptus oil it may help relieve skin problems, including those caused by stress and chicken pox.
  • Black pepper essential oil is commonly used for stimulating the circulation, muscular aches and pains, and bruises. Combined with ginger essential oil, it is used to reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility.
  • Chamomile essential oil can treat eczema
  • Citronella essential oil is a relative of lemongrass and acts as an insect repellent
  • Clove essential oil is a topical analgesic, or painkiller, that is commonly used for toothache. It is also used as an antispasmodic antiemetic, for preventing vomiting and nausea, and as a carminative, preventing gas in the gut. It has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antifungal properties.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil can help relieve the airways during a cold or flu. It is often combined with peppermint. Many people are allergic to eucalyptus, so care should be taken.
  • Geranium essential oil can be used for skin problems, to reduce stress, and as a mosquito repellant.
  • Jasmine essential oil has been described as an aphrodisiac. While scientific evidence is lacking, research has shown that the odor of jasmine increases beta waves, which are linked to alertness. As a stimulant, it might increase penile blood flow.
  • Lemon essential oil is said to improve mood, and to help relieve the symptoms of stress and depression.
  • Rosemary essential oil may promote hair growth, boost memory, help prevent muscle spasms, and support the circulatory and nervous systems.
  • Sandalwood essential oil is believed by some to have aphrodisiac qualities.
  • Tea tree essential oil is said to have antimicrobial, antiseptic, and disinfectant qualities. It is commonly used in shampoos and skin care products, to treat acne, burns, and bites. It features in mouth rinses but it should never be swallowed, as it is toxic.
  • Thyme essential oil is said to help reduce fatigue, nervousness, and stress.
  • Yarrow essential oil is used to treat symptoms of cold and flu, and to help reduce joint inflammation.

The aromatherapist should take a thorough medical history, and a lifestyle, diet, and current health history.

Aromatherapy involves a holistic approach, so it aims to treat the whole person. Treatments will be suited to the individual’s physical and mental needs. Based on these needs, the aromatherapist may recommend a single oil or a blend.”7

As the Naturally Daily has evidenced in from experiment results work ‘Proven Benefits of Aromatherapy for Health and Wellness’: “When you lack in energy, when you’re feeling weak or tired, or when you feel like you’re not in the mood to get out of bed and be your usual productive self, you can rely on aromatherapy to give you that much needed lift.

These are a good alternative to unhealthy stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes or energy pills.

Tea tree, jasmine, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, sage, and rosemary are just a few examples of essential oils that can shoot up energy levels by increasing blood circulation and stimulating the mind and body.

In an experiment performed by Japanese and German researchers, 41 participants were asked to inhale either bergamot oil or a placebo.

Results indicate that bergamot oil had positive effects on the participants’ mood and energy levels. 

Lack of energy can be resolved by using essential oils that increase blood circulation and stimulate the mind and body.” 8

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) advises that: “Since essential oils cause reactions in the body, not all the oils will benefit everyone. Chemical compounds in essential oils can produce adverse effects when combined with medications. They may reduce the effectiveness of conventional drugs, or they may exacerbate health conditions in the individual.

A person with high blood pressure, for example, should avoid stimulants, such as rosemary. Some compounds, such as fennel, aniseed, and sage act similarly to estrogen, so a person with an estrogen-dependent breast or ovarian tumor should avoid these.

Concentrated products may be poisonous before dilution and should be handled with care. A maximum concentration of 5 percent is recommended.

Some oils produce toxins which can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, especially if taken internally. Swallowing essential oils can be hazardous, and fatal in some cases.

Individuals with any of the following conditions should be extra careful when using aromatherapy:

  • An allergy, or allergies
  • Hay fever, a type of allergy
  • Asthma
  • Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis

People with the following conditions must be extremely cautious:

If the oil is to be mixed with a carrier, the individual should tell the aromatherapist or massage therapist about any nut allergies, because carrier oils are often obtained from nuts and seeds.”9

According to the investigative work results published in the ‘Live Science Health’ titled ‘The Science of Essential Oils’: “Some consumers add essential oils to their baths, or use them as home remedies, such as inhaling eucalyptus vapors to relieve congestion. Others may place the oils in a diffuser to scent the air — peppermint is promoted for stimulating alertness, and lavender is often listed as a way to promote calmness.” 10 

As expressed by aromatherapy experts: “Essential oils may be the backbone of aromatherapy, but there are a wide range of products that have aromatic benefits, including candles, soaps, diffusers, lotions and fragrances.”11

Therefore, as the Good Thinking Society Organization states: “therapists individualize these oils according to their patients characteristics and symptoms. The therapist will normally take a brief medical history, possibly conduct a short examination.This usually is relaxing and agreeable. Aromatherapy is often advocated for chronic conditions such as anxiety, tension headache and musculoskeletal pain. Aromatherapists usually recommend regular sessions, even in the absence of symptoms for preventing recurrences.”12

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(1) The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Official website of the United States government. Health & Education. Essential Oils.  

(2, 3, 5) Digital Publishing Platform (Issuu). American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS). Aromatherapy Everyday Basics. Essential Oil Tips and Recipes for Health and Wellness.

(4) Aromatic Wisdom Institute. Methods of Diffusing Essential Oils. 2012.

(6) HEALTHGUIDANCE.ORG. Health Guidance for Better Health Organization (HG). The Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Aromatherapy.  

(7, 9) The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). Medical News Today. Aromatherapy: What you need to know.

(8) Naturally Daily. Proven Benefits of Aromatherapy for Health and Wellness.

(10) Live Science. The Science of Essential Oils. 2015.  

(11) Aromatherapy experts

(12) Good Thinking Society Organization. Good Thinking About Aromatherapy.

Robert Velasquez
13 October, 2018

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