What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy has often been misconstrued as anything that is sweet smelling, such as perfumes, scented candles, potpourri, and incense. It is much more than that. Aromatherapy is the science of using organically extracted oils from plants for balancing, harmonizing, and promoting a healthy body, spirit, and mind.

It seeks to open up your physiological, emotional and spiritual areas in response to the aroma of the extracts, thereby, improving your natural healing processes.

Application and Interaction

In a more detailed sense, Aromatherapy is the careful and meticulous application of volatile herbal oils, popularly known as essential oils, for healing or prevention of illness. It is basically a mutual action involving you (the client), the therapist, and the oils themselves. These three work together to bring out healing energy, improving your strength and well being.

The therapy can help alleviate different kinds of ailments, such as aiding in the healing of injuries and reducing aches and pains. It also reduces the soreness of the body brought about by different health problems.

Holistic Complementary Therapy

Aromatherapy is a form of complementary therapy designed to treat the whole person and not just the symptom or disease by assisting the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal, and maintain itself. It also has the capabilities to work up through the central nervous system, making it useful in reducing stress, depression, and nervousness.

The therapy is relaxing, stimulating, uplifting, and sedating and has been credited with restoring physical and emotional well being. Aromatherapy, as a holistic medicine, is both a preventative method and an effective treatment for severe and persistent ailments.

History of Aromatherapy

Essential Oils in BottlesAromatherapy is said to be as ancient as mans association with plants and so its origin cant be specifically determined. The individual that first discovered plants could be used for healing is unknown, but we do know formulas using aromatic mixtures are mentioned in the Bible. Urns containing aromatic resins have been discovered in tombs from the ancient times of the Pharaohs.

The use of aromatic barks, perfumed oils, wines, resins and vinegars dates back to 4500BC. Egyptian priests were also physicians and alchemists during those times and they used aromatic substances for healing.

Broad therapeutic application of essential oils is documented in India, China, and the Middle East from many centuries ago. Archaeological digs have proven that Aromatherapy has been in practice for thousands of years.

Between 980-1037 AD, Avicenna, a Persian physician and alchemist, extracted and purified the oil of Rosa centifolia. Although he didnt discover the distilling process, he refined it. Avicenna was the first person to produce an essential oil using the steam distillation process.

The use of essential oils was overshadowed in the 19th century with the invention of chemical and synthetic medicines. In the early 1880’s, scientists discovered microorganisms when the microscope was invented.

The development of the capacity to separate specific bioactive compounds and artificially reproduce them contributed to the decline of essential oils. One example of this is the case of aspirin versus White Willow Bark. Aspirin was created by using the herbs pain relieving properties, but in synthetic form.

One reason aspirin became much more popular has to do with convenience. Once it is produced, it can be stored for future use. The natural plant, however, is susceptible to the common issues related to growing crops.


Renewed interest in Aromatherapy began around the time of World War I. A Frenchman named Gattefosse was conducting an experiment in a perfumery plant and severely burned his hand. He plunged it into the nearest tub of lavender essential oil.

Gattefosse was astonished at how quickly his burn was cured and with no visible signs of scars. This began his interests with essential oils and motivated him to conduct experiments on soldiers in the military hospitals during the First World War.

He cleaned their wounds using oils of lavender, clove, lemon, and thyme. Gattefosse noticed an improvement in the speed of healing of the wounds where essential oils were used for treatment.

He also noted the fact that oils appeared to be uninhibited from the difficulties that were present with other antibacterial agents that are used during those times.
Dr Gattefosse coined the term Aromatherapie, the title his book that was published in 1928.

Father of Modern Aromatherapy

He wrote several other books on essential oils mentioning the curative properties of essential oils in facial ulcers, skin cancer, Black Widow spider bites, and gangrene. He encouraged the use of the oils in their complete and pure form. Gattefosse is considered the Father of Modern Aromatherapy.

Today, synthesized compounds and other drugs are advertised as more effective than natural treatments. However, there is a strong revival of this ancient healing art of Aromatherapy.

In a time where antibiotics are overused and new types of bacteria and viruses appear at a disturbing rate, people are going back to the natural remedies, because they dont have as many side effects as the artificial compounds do.

Aromatherapy Applications

Aromatic LilyYou can use Aromatherapy in a variety of ways to encourage well being in mind and body. Studies show that aroma may have influences on the brain and may improve your bodys natural healing process.

While Aromatherapy is still yet to be endorsed in medical science as a substitute for modern medicine, it can be a complementary approach that can help maintain or heighten your responses to curative treatments.

The power of Aromatherapy comes from essential oils. In its pure form, essential oils are very potent and can be a source of healing. In some applications, you dont need to smell these oils to attain the benefits.

Essential oils may have qualities that can prevent diseases and promote your bodys health, whether through their aroma or other traits.

How to Use Aromatherapy Oils

    • For direct application onto the skin, you should apply oil directly, or you may dilute it a bit with carrier oil. Carrier oils include sweet almond, grape seed, or olive. You can add around 10-25 drops of the essential oil to an ounce of carrier oil of your choice.

The oil is easily absorbed by the skin and can deliver benefits throughout your body within minutes. It is important that you always test new- found oils on small areas of the skin before you apply it to your whole body.

  • For massage, mix around 10 to 25 drops of oil with an ounce of massage oil or carrier oil. You can try back treatments or full body treatments. An alcohol rub would require you to use essential oils mixed with ethanol or rubbing alcohol.
  • For aromatic baths, add around 3 drops of the essential oil to a warm bath then add Epsom or sea salt. Let the oils and salt mix well in the water and while you are waiting you can add aromatic candles or burn oils throughout the bath area for a more relaxing bath.
  • If you would just like to enjoy a simple salt rub in the shower, add a few drops of essential oil to Epsom salt or sea salt on the palm of your hand and gently rub all over your body. This will stimulate circulation and exfoliate your skin, too.
  • To use oils for a hot compress, rub several drops of oil on particular area on your body and cover the area with a hot damp towel; then cover the same area with a dry towel. If it gets too hot, dilute with any pure vegetable oil. You can also add a few drops to hot or cold water, and then wet a small cloth in the mixture to use in applying to your body.
  • For direct inhalation, you can put a few drops onto your palm and rub them together, or you can put the oil on a piece of tissue or cloth, cup hands or cloth over your nose and mouth and breathe deeply.

You can also use essential oils for steam inhalation, adding around 4 drops of oil to steaming water and then covering your head and the kettle with a dry towel to inhale the aromatic vapors.

As a vaporizer or humidifier, you can use lavender oil, peppermint, or lemon to calm and soothe frayed nerves. Use your favorite essential oil in an oil burner or an aromatic vaporizer.

As a dietary supplement, oils in capsules can be bought in local health food stores, but always check with a professional first or ingest oils under the trained eye of an Aromatherapist.

      In cleaning and disinfecting the home, you may add a few drops to the dishwasher or washing machine. Favorite oils for this purpose include lemon, peppermint, and tea tree oil.


      Although the above uses are the most traditional ways to harvest the benefits of essential oils, you always need to be aware of the possible unfavorable effects of oils.

If you have suffered from allergies before, or are suffering from any medical condition now, you should consult your medical practitioner or an experienced Aromatherapist before using any of the essential or carrier oils.

There are other types of oil such as absolutes and infusions that exist, but essential oil is by and large the most valuable material for Aromatherapy. Its better than the other oils, because it has less trace material that can cause unpleasant odors, irritations, or allergies.

How Does Applying Essential Oils Work?

There are many benefits that you can gain from Aromatherapy, whether it is for your body or your psyche. It can be of great help to a myriad of complaints you may have with your health, feelings, and your surroundings.

Your olfactory nerves, the nerves that send odor signals to your brain, are more receptive than the other senses in your body. Aside from the normal smells in the air, your nose can smell so many more things you may not even be aware of. These smell signals are sent up to the brain through the reticular stem. The reticular system is the crossroads of emotions, memories, and awareness.

That part of your brain is where Aromatherapy builds its stronghold. It relies on particular aromas to stimulate parts of the brain that control other body systems and bodily tasks. Essentially, Aromatherapy takes hold of your sense of smell to transport the oils therapeutic benefits to you.

In its own way, Aromatherapy helps in different irregularities that you may be experiencing and may pave the way to an improvement in your emotional well being.

There have been evidence presented that particular aromas affect the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the bodys hormone regulator, and as you know, hormones affect how your body and mind function.