What is aromatherapy?


Elizabeth Walker, Staff Writer

Google defines aromatherapy as a “use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage or baths.” In actuality, the art of aromatherapy is far more complex than what meets the eye. There are many ways to partake in this treatment system that can range from traditional, contemporary, or alternative. Aromatherapy is the use of materials derived from oils or plants in a therapeutic manner to heal and soothe the body and mind.

Aromatherapy practices have been around for around 5,000-6,000 years. One of the first documented cases were the Ancient Egyptians when they used the art of infusion to extract oils from an array of different items. They used these oils by burning frankincense and myrrh for the gods to appease them each morning and night. The Egyptians also used them in many other ways like embalming, adding fragrance after bathing, and for cosmetic aid. Greeks took over this idea, and soon they were using herbs and flora to make fragrant remedies for people all over the world. Over time, these archaic cures were overlooked for more modern and technologically advanced ways of curing sickness and disease. Aromatherapy is a good way to avoid copious amounts of medicine for minor pains that don’t necessarily require medical attention (like headaches or stress).

Aside from pleasantly stimulating your sniffer, there are many mental and physical advantages from using essential oils in your everyday life. For example, essential oils affect the brain by stimulating the limbic system. The limbic system deals with emotions, stimulations, and memory. Certain types of oils can improve memory, soothe joints, treat headaches, and boost sleep quality (I’ll get in to certain types a bit later). Not only are there an array of different scents and advantages, but you can also use essential oils in plethora of other ways. You can either inhale the essential oils  or topically administer them with many different methods to go about it. You can use a diffuser, facial steamer, bathing salts, body oils, creams, sprays, or even steam baths to reap the benefits of the essential oils. This holistic health practice is proven to improve your mood and aid in calming.

Certain types of oils are used to obtain different results. The basil essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy because it sharpens concentration, alleviates symptoms of depression, and eliminates bad odors. Black pepper can stimulate circulation and get rid of muscle pains. Eucalyptus is mostly used as a stress reliever or to relieve some cold symptoms.

There are 101 or more uses for essential oils, but in no way should they ever be used as a toy or held sacred above modern medicine. There is still a limited amount of research in specific areas of aromatherapy. Even though they have many health benefits, there are still some possible threats if used incorrectly. First and foremost, you should NEVER apply the oils directly to your  skin, it will irritate it. Find some way to diffuse or dilute the oil so that it’s safe for use. It should be noted that you always need to do an allergy check before you completely apply it to your skin or body, just in case you’re allergic to that specific plant or fragrance. Some people can have severe allergic reactions or some could quite possibly have no effect on you at all. Also, considering essential oils are not monitored by the Food and Drug administration, they may not always contain pure ingredients. This is why you should always go to a trained aromatherapist (sounds fake, I know) if you have any inquiries or questions as to where you should go to find a reliable provider. It also may cause side effects like nausea, headaches, allergic reactions, or rashes. Essential oils should always be used with caution. If they are used in the correct manner, they can be very beneficial to everyday life.

So, what’s the final verdict? Whether you love it or hate it, aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years, and I don’t see it fading completely out of view anytime soon. If you’re interested in a unique way to relieve symptoms of stress, headaches, and pain, I recommend giving this a try. If you’re looking for a permanent solution to cure diseases, I recommend vaccinating your child before contracting the aforementioned diseases. Aromatherapy is not a cure-all, it is simply a way for people to feel better, mentally and physically, than they did before. The serendipity is that you get to smell good while doing so.


(Disclaimer: I do NOT advocate aromatherapy to replace traditional medical treatments, nor do I recommend it. I simply want to educate people on the potential benefits of subscribing to some of the ideals of aromatherapy to cure small complications to your well-being, like stress or headaches.)