Alternative Medicine Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a technique that uses essential oils to achieve balance and good health. Aromatherapists tout many possible benefits of aromatherapy, including pain relief, improved mood and a sense of relaxation. Today, practitioners use more than 300 essential oils, some of which are known for their antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. Aromatherapy can affect your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, as well as your healing ability.

History of Aromatherapy

The ancient Greeks and Egyptians first used aromatic oils and fragrances. Modern aromatherapy began in 1928, however, when French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé coined the term “aromatherapie.” After burning his arm in a lab accident, Gattefossé plunged his arm into the nearest liquid, which happened to be a vat of lavender essential oil. The burn healed so quickly and without scars, that he spent the rest of his life studying the properties of aromatherapy oils.

Essential Oils in Aromatherapy

Essential oils, sometimes called aromatherapy oils, are highly concentrated extracts made from parts of aromatic plants, including flowers, fruit peels, leaves, resins, twigs and wood. Most essential oils are steam-distilled from the plant material, although several other processes are used to produce aromatherapy oils. For example, citrus oils such as lemon or orange are pressed from the rind of the fruit.

You can use a single essential oil or mix several to create aromatherapy blends. Aromatherapists often recommend aromatherapy blends for the synergistic effects of combined essential oils.

The two main ways to get the benefits of aromatherapy are inhalation and skin application:

  • With inhalation, you can use an aromatherapy diffuser to diffuse essential oils into the air, make a spray by mixing essential oils with distilled water, or simply place the oil in the palms of your hands and inhale.
  • Skin application may involve adding a few drops of essential oil to massage oil, or adding essential oils to creams or lotions for everyday use. Skin salves and solutions containing these oils can benefit various ailments. You can also apply aromatherapy compresses to specific parts of the body.

If you’re interested in the benefits of aromatherapy, add five to ten drops of essential oils to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes.

Aromatherapy Safety

Although aromatherapy is generally safe when used properly, essential oils are highly concentrated and may cause side effects or interact with medical conditions or medications. When practicing aromatherapy:

  • Dilute most essential oils for topical use. You’ll see conflicting advice on this topic, so learn when you need to dilute and when dilution isn’t necessary.
  • Keep essential oils away from children and pets.
  • Stop using an essential oil if you notice an adverse reaction.
  • Take essential oils internally only under professional guidance.
  • Use only high-quality essential oils from a trusted source. Many products advertised as “essential oils” are adulterated or diluted and won’t provide the benefits of aromatherapy.

If you have asthma, epilepsy or a serious medical condition, or if you’re pregnant or nursing, you should avoid certain aromatherapy oils. Discuss your use of aromatherapy oils with your health care provider.

Working with a professional aromatherapist will help you maximize the benefits of aromatherapy. If you choose to use essential oils and aromatherapy blends on your own, however, use information from a reputable source. Check the credentials of any source you’re using. With this knowledge-and a little common sense—you can enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.


Aroma Web. (n.d.). History of aromatherapy. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. (n.d.). About aromatherapy. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2009). Aromatherapy. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from

University of Minnesota. (n.d.). How do essential oils work?Retrieved August 20, 2010, from