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What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and wellness. Sometimes it is called essential oil therapy. Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind and spirit. It improves physical as well as emotional health.

Aromatherapy is considered both an art and a science. Recently, aromatherapy has gained more recognition in the fields of science and medicine.

How long has aromatherapy been around?

People have been using aromatherapy for thousands of years. Ancient cultures in China, India, Egypt and elsewhere incorporated aromatic plant components into resins, balms and oils. These natural substances were used for medical and religious purposes. They were known to have both physical and psychological benefits.

Distillation of essential oils is attributed to the Persians in the 10th century, although the practice for this may have been in use for a long time. Information on essential oil distillation was published in Germany in the 16th century. French doctors in the 19th century recognized the potential of essential oils in the treatment of disease.

Doctors became more established in the 19th century, focusing on the use of chemical drugs. However, French and German doctors still recognized the role of natural plant extracts in the treatment of disease.

The term “aromatherapy” was coined by a French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in a book he wrote on the subject published in 1937. He had previously discovered the healing potential of lavender in the treatment of burns. The book discusses the use of essential oils in the treatment of medical conditions.

How does an aromatherapy treatment work?

Aromatherapy works through the skin’s sense of smell and absorption through products such as these:

  • diffusers
  • aromatic spritzers
  • inhalers
  • bath salt
  • body oils, creams or lotions for massage or topical application
  • facial steamers
  • hot and cold compresses
  • clay masks

You can use these alone or in any combination. There are nearly a hundred types of essential oils available.

Aromatherapy Benefits

Aromatherapy has a variety of benefits:

  • dealing with pain
  • improve sleep quality
  • reduce stress, excitement and anxiety
  • soothes aching joints
  • treat headaches and migraines
  • Relieve side effects of chemotherapy
  • Relieve the discomforts of childbirth
  • fight against bacteria, viruses or fungi
  • improve digestion
  • improving hospice and palliative care
  • Boost immunity