Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on May 03, 2012
Venclik, Carol; Certified aroma and massage therapists, Atlanta School of Massage; Buckle, J. Altern Ther Health Med. “Use of aromatherapy as a Complementary treatment for Chronic Pain”, 1999 Sept. 5; Holmes C, Hopkins V, Hensford C, MacLaughlin V, Wilkinson D, Rosenvinge H. “Lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behavior in severe dementia: a placebo controlled study” Int J Geriatric Psychiatry. 2002 Apr; 17.
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Narrator: Aroma therapy is the use of essential oils that come from plants, trees and herbs.
Melody, Patient: YES!
Narrator: Depending on the particular scent, aroma therapists say the oils can work to cleanse, stimulate, relax and even help control pain.
Carol Venclik, Certified Aromatherapist, Atlanta School of Massage: Our sense of smell is actually 10-thousand times more than our sense of taste. And so we smell things immediately.
Narrator: Massage is the most popular way to embark on a sensory journey. Before you start, the therapist will likely ask you some basic health questions:
Carol Venclik, Certified Aromatherapist, Atlanta School of Massage: High blood pressure, heart condition?
Narrator: Pregnant women should avoid aroma therapy – while more studies are needed, experts worry some essential oils might be harmful to the fetus. If you're otherwise healthy and opt for this type of massage, you'll likely be wrapped up so your body stays warm and your pores stay open. The scents are believed to stimulate nerve cells in the nose, sending impulses to the brain.
Carol Venclik, Certified Aromatherapist, Atlanta School of Massage: It goes from the olfactory to limbic system which is our connection to our emotions in the brain.
Narrator: It's also the part of the brain which controls memory and if the memories are happy, endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, might be released.
Carol Venclik, Certified Aromatherapist, Atlanta School of Massage: The feet and the hands are the quickest way for the essential oils to get into the blood stream.
Narrator: Studies on aroma therapy are ongoing. One showed lavender oil helped calm patients with severe dementia. Another showed pleasing smells might be a complementary therapy for managing chronic pain. Aroma therapists say they gage its benefits by their clients' reactions:
Carol Venclik, Certified Aromatherapist, Atlanta School of Massage: Toasty? hm hmm…
Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.