The Essentials of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries. Learn if essential oils can make you feel better.
Practitioners of aromatherapy use essential oils from flowers, herbs, or plants to promote relaxation, healing, and a sense of well-being. These oils can be rubbed into your skin through massage, added to bath water, or their aromas can be inhaled through the air. Some common essential oils include lavender, rosemary, peppermint, jasmine, and eucalyptus.
What does aromatherapy work for? Aromatherapy has been touted to do everything from prevent cancer to fight off infections. But there is no scientific proof for these claims.
However, preliminary studies show that aromatherapy may be a good complementary treatment, meaning it can be used along with other medical treatments for easing:
Stress and anxiety Pain Nausea Depression
Some people with cancer say aromatherapy helps improve their quality of life.
How it works Experts aren't sure how aromatherapy works exactly. But they think it has something to do with how the body reacts to certain smells.
Our sense of smell is closely tied to memories and emotions. The aroma of freshly baked cookies may remind you of your home. Or the scent of coconut may make you recall a tropical vacation. Certain scents promote relaxation while others promote energy.
Aromatherapy is thought by some to work the same way. Some experts believe breathing in essential oils sparks the parts of the brain involved in physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, lavender affects the brain like sedative medicines do, so it may help people relax.
What to expect at your aromatherapy session Your aromatherapy session may involve:
Inhaling the essential oils. A few drops of the essential oils are added to steaming water, humidifiers, or placed over a candle. The scent is spread throughout the room for you to inhale. Aromatherapy massage. Your therapist will combine the essential oils with another oil or cream and massage your body. You'll enjoy the physical benefits of massage while breathing in the essential oils. Directions for how to use aromatherapy at home. You may be instructed to put a few drops of essential oil on your pillow or add it to bath water.
Who should not use aromatherapy? Aromatherapy is not safe for everyone. Your doctor can help you decide if aromatherapy is safe for you. If it is, ask your doctor to recommend an aromatherapist. Some massage therapists, psychologists, chiropractors, and social workers practice aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is usually safe but in some people it may cause:
Skin rash Lung irritation Headache Liver or nerve damage Harm to an unborn baby
You're doctor may tell you to avoid all or certain essential oils if you:
Are pregnant Have severe asthma Have allergies Have high blood pressure Have a history of seizures Have breast or ovarian cancer Are undergoing chemotherapy Are taking certain medicines