What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is a kind of therapy that, as the name suggests, uses the power of aroma. Although it is not considered part of mainstream, allopathic medicine, especially in the West, it nevertheless has many uses in today’s rushed and stressful world. Aromatherapy uses plant-derived essential oils, individually or in blends, to create specific effects—by using scent, aromatherapy allows you to influence your own mood, or that of another person or group. Aromatherapy can relieve stress, anxiety and depression, increase energy levels, ease headaches, boost concentration, or provide a revitalising jolt to your tired mind.
The History of Aromatherapy
There is quite a bit of archaeological evidence to show that aromatherapy has been used by various cultures for thousands of years. Traces of essential oils have been found entombed with Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, and we know that the Persians, Greeks and Romans used essential oils topically and in diffusers. Aromatherapy was also widely used in India and China – and indeed still is. In the West, it was formalised as a field of alternative healing in France and Germany in the 1800s, and today it is widely used all over the world.
The Uses of Aromatherapy
Today, the most popular use for aromatherapy is stress relief - and this is not surprising, given how hectic and crowded our schedules can get, and how many responsibilities we juggle. Creating a sense of well-being and relaxation is one of the easiest things to do with aromatherapy; for this reason it is very often used for the relief of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. More controversially, it is used to relieve chronic pain and discomfort. But be aware: although aromatherapy can relieve symptoms of psychological discomfort, it is not meant to cure the underlying problem, and as a result you should be wary of anyone who claims to be able to cure depression or anxiety with aromatherapy. But it is certain that it can help!
Why Should I Choose Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is an alternative therapy. It is holistic, treating both body and mind. Generally, it doesn’t use potentially harmful chemicals that have side-effects (although it is best to exercise caution with some oils). In terms of relieving stress and giving you energy, aromatherapy’s major advantage is that it does this by avoiding harsh stimulants like caffeine or nicotine. It can also be used to offset the side effects of antidepressants.
How Aromatherapy Works
Some scientists believe that the essential oils themselves have chemical properties that, when inhaled, have a direct pharmacological effect on the body. Some oils, such as peppermint, tea tree and lavender, have scientifically-proven antibacterial properties. Other researchers believe that aromatherapy taps into the brain’s limbic system through the olfactory system, and this is what causes the physical effects. But there is a good and growing body of evidence that, independently of the actual mechanisms , it does promote wellbeing and relaxation.
Generally, there are two main ways of experiencing the essential oils: diffusion, and topical application. We discuss diffusion below. For topical application, many essential oils are diluted with a carrier oil, such as almond oil or calendula oil, and applied directly to the skin. Massage is a major part of the topical application of essential oils, but they can also be applied to specific parts of the body, for example an aching joint, the pulse points, or the temples. 
How to Use Aromatherapy
A major benefit of aromatherapy is that it can be used in many ways, so there is bound to be one that suits your particular circumstances. From the orthodox route of going to a professional aromatherapist who can tailor essential oil blends to your particular needs, to a simple portable method suitable for a quiet five minutes in your office, you can use aromatherapy however and whenever it suits you best.
This is probably the best option if you feel your aromatherapeutic needs might be complex. Trained aromatherapists can advise on which oils and combinations of oils would work you, as well as make up the blends and apply them for you. However, as not all countries accredit aromatherapists the same way, it is best to do some research about what your region requires and what you can expect.
Diffusion is probably the most widespread way of using aromatherapy. Most methods of diffusion use directly-applied or ambient heat to spread the scent of the essential oil through the air. Some can scent large areas, while some are better suited to small rooms or even areas within rooms. Likewise, some convey a lingering scent, while others create a short-lived but intense scent. There are many different kinds of diffuser, including:
- Lamp-ring diffusers: these grooved clay or metal rings fit around lightbulbs. Essential oils are then dripped into the groove, and the heat given off by the bulb diffuses the scent.
- Terracotta or sandstone diffusers: these can be small pots or even basic convex discs in shape. Essential oils are dripped into or onto the diffuser, and the porous clay or stone allows it to diffuse into the air.
- Candle diffusers: these use a tealight or small candle to heat a tray into which a small number of drops of essential oil is added, sometimes with water.
- Electric heat diffusers: these are small and inexpensive appliances that use electricity to heat a plate to which essential oils have been applied.
- Ultrasonic diffusers: these are more elaborate than electric heat diffusers, in that they use ultrasonic waves to disperse essential oils that have been diluted in water.
- Nebulising diffusers: probably the most complex type of diffuser, nebulising diffusers break up the essential oil into separate molecules, which are then dispersed throughout the area.[^1011]
Using Aromatherapy With Household Materials
If you don’t want to buy a diffuser, or if you have one but you don’t have it with you, this is not a problem: some simple household materials can double up as diffusers.
- tissue paper: a few drops of essential oil applied to a simple paper tissue will disperse the scent gently and for a short while. This is perfect for on-the-go aromatherapy.
- steam diffusion: Adding a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of freshly-boiled water will disperse the scent along with the steam. This method can scent a wide area, but not for long.
- candle diffusion: burn a soy or beeswax candle for a few minutes, then extinguish it and add a single drop of essential oil to the melted wax at the base of the wick. Be careful, though: essential oils are flammable, so do not let them touch the wick itself.
Aromatherapy oils are easily portable, and as we will discuss below, have many uses, psychological and physical. Many aromatherapy users carry the oil they use most often with them when they commute or travel, to relieve stress, ease fatigue, or put some pep in their step.
Aromatherapy Oils Books
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Revised and Expanded: Over 800 Natural, Nontoxic, and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health, Beauty, and Safe Home and Work Environments by Valerie Ann Worwood
- The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils In Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health, and Well Being by Julia Lawless
- Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice Second Edition by Jennifer Peace Rhind
- The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt Ph.D.
- The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness Paperback by Nerys Purchon,Lora Cantele
Aromaweb. “Is All the Hype About Aromatherapy and Essential Oils True?”. Accessed 31 October 2017. ↩
Zen Oils. “Natural Antidepressants That Work Fast and Effective.”. Accessed 31 October 2017; Dalinda Isabel Sánchez-Vidaña et al. “The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review.”. 4 January 2017. Accessed 31 October 2017. ↩
Babar Ali et al. “Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review.”. August 2015. Accessed 31 October 2017. ↩
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. “Aromatherapy Education.”. Accessed 31 October 2017.; The International Federation of Aromatherapists. “Home.”. Accessed 31 October 2017; Tauna Meyer. The Truth About Aromatherapy Certification.” Accessed 31 October 2017. ↩
https://www.doterra.com/US/en/; https://www.doterra.com/US/en/c/kits-and-collections ↩
Aromaweb. “Aromatherapy Diffusers Also Known As Essential Oil Diffusers”. Accessed 31 October 2017. ↩