Aromatherapy Basics

Aromatherapy uses the medicinal properties of the essential oils of plants and herbs.

Aromatherapy stimulates the powerful sense of smell. It is known that odors we smell have a significant impact on how we feel. It is believed that smells enter through nose into the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls our moods, emotions, memory and learning.

Aromatherapy is one of the few pleasures that is not fattening , toxic, overstimulating or in some other way harmful


The use of plant essential oils dates back to the ancient times in Egypt, India, and China. Aromatherapy regained popularity in 1937 when a French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, witnessed first-hand the healing power of lavender oil on healing skin burns.

Properties of common oils

Orange. Uplifting, antidepressant

Contraindications: phototoxic, exposure to sunlight should be avoided for several hours after use

Lemon.  Uplifting, energizing, antidepressant, use in room sprays for a disinfectant

Contraindications: phototoxic, exposure to sunlight should be avoided for several hours after use

Lavender.  Relaxation, induces sleep

Contraindications: none

Eucalyptus. Energizing, decongestant, anti-septic

Ginger. Anti-inflammatory, warming, increases circulation

Rosemary. Stimulates circulation, energizing, mental energizer, great for jet lag, good for respiratory disorders

Contraindications: high blood pressure, epilepsy

Peppermint. Energizing, good to keep in the car in case you get tired while driving, good for headaches, cooling, good to soak tired feet

Contraindications: epilepsy

Rose. Antidepressant, good for grief

Frankincense. Meditative, calming, grounding

Bay Laurel.  Powerful immune stimulant, should not be applied to the skin, use as an inhalant only

Contraindications: Should not be used on the skin, inhaled only


Aromatherapy is most beneficial for stress related illnesses and viral conditions.

How to use aromatherapy

Massage. A few drops can be mixed into massage lotion.

Bath. A few drops can be placed in bath water.


Diffuser.  Many diffusers are available in health food stores to disburse the oils through the air

Crockpot . Oils can be placed in a crockpot and the scent will be disbursed throughout a room for hours.

Spray bottle . A few drops can be placed in a spray bottle and sprayed to freshen a room

Bowl of boiling water. You can place your head over a bowl of boiling water with a few drops of oil and cover your head with a towel to breath in the aroma.

Body lotion. A few drops can be mixed into body lotion and then applied to the skin.


A fragrance company in Japan held studies on the effect of aromatherapy on people. Different essential oils were dispersed through the air where keyboard operators with exposed. The following was the result.

When exposed to lavender which is has relaxing properties errors dropped by 20%

When exposed to jasmine which has uplifting properties errors dropped by 33%

When exposed to lemon which has stimulating properties errors dropped by 54%

In a study reported in the British Medical Journal Lancet, elderly patients slept "like babies" when a lavender aroma was wafted into their bedrooms at night. These patients had complained of difficulty falling asleep and had to take sleeping pills to get sleep prior to the aromatherapy.

In a study conducted at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reported 63 percent less claustrophobic after getting exposed to the aroma of vanilla. There was no change in their heart rate. Obviously, the aroma reduced their anxiety probably by the pleasant memories evoked by the vanilla aroma or by some other physiological response.

General Cautions

Essential oils should never be taken internally

Never use full-strength oils on the skin; if using for massage, always dilute the oils in a carrier oil (eg almond, grapeseed or jojoba).

Certain oils can be dangerous during pregnancy, use extreme caution.

High blood pressure can be worsened by using rosemary

There are many candles and bath oils which claim to be 'aromatherapy'; many of these contain synthetic oils, not essential oils, and may not be as beneficial. Use them because they smell nice - don't expect miracle results.

Citrus oils orange, lemon, bergamont and grapefruit are phototoxic

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