Aromatherapy, or essential
oils therapy, is using a plant's aroma-producing oils (essential oils) to treat
disease. Essential oils are taken from a plant's flowers, leaves, stalks, bark,
rind, or roots. The oils are mixed with another substance (such as oil,
alcohol, or lotion) and then put on the skin, sprayed in the air, or inhaled.
You can also massage the oils into the skin or pour them into bath water.
Aromatherapy as used today originated in Europe and has been practiced there
since the early 1900s.
Practitioners of aromatherapy believe that
fragrances in the oils stimulate nerves in the nose. Those nerves send impulses
to the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. Depending on the
type of oil, the result on the body may be calming or stimulating.
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The oils are thought to interact with the body's
enzymes to cause changes in
blood pressure, pulse, and other body functions.
Another theory suggests that the fragrance of certain oils may stimulate the
body to produce pain-fighting substances.
What is aromatherapy used for?
promote relaxation and help relieve
stress. It has also been used to help treat a wide
range of physical and mental conditions, including burns, infections,
high blood pressure. But so far there is limited
scientific evidence to support claims that aromatherapy effectively prevents or
Is aromatherapy safe?
aromatherapy are not specially licensed in the United States. A wide range of
licensed health professionals (such as massage therapists, nurses, and
counselors) may have experience and training in aromatherapy. It is important
to talk with your medical doctor to see whether aromatherapy may be helpful and
safe for your specific health condition.
Do not swallow the oils
used in aromatherapy. Many of the oils are potent and can be dangerous if taken
Children younger than age 5 should not use
aromatherapy, because they can be very sensitive to the oil. Nor should anyone
use oils near the eyes or mouth, because irritation of the skin and membranes
People with certain chronic illnesses or conditions
should not use aromatherapy without first consulting a doctor. These illnesses
and conditions include:
Lung conditions such as
asthma, respiratory allergies, or chronic lung
disease. Oils may cause airway spasms.
Skin allergies. Some oils may cause skin irritation, especially
in the membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Pregnancy. Pregnant women should not use aromatherapy. Some
oils (such as juniper, rosemary, and sage) may cause uterine contractions.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an
alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative
therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo
your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative