“Essential oils speak to our memories, our heart, and our emotions.” – Maren Good
The term aromatherapy means “treatment using scents.” Aromatherapy is a form of herbal medicine since it utilizes plants (such as flowers, spices, or herbs) for medicinal purposes. However, whereas in traditional herbal medicine whole herbs are typically ingested, in aromatherapy only the volatile, essential oils of plants are used for their healing benefits. These essential oils are very concentrated and should not be ingested. Instead they confer their healing properties through the power of scent. When we inhale the vapors from an essential oil, the scent goes directly to our brain via the limbic system. There that scent can evoke memories, induce feelings of calm, impact alertness, and otherwise positively impact overall well-being.
In addition, essential oils are readily absorbed through the skin, which enables them to promote a variety of healing effects within the body. When utilized in massage or in skin care products, essential oils can act as pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, fungicides, diuretics, expectorants, and antibacterials.
Tips for Using Essential Oils
- Many essential oils can cause burns or irritation, and most must be diluted with carrier oils (such as jojoba, almond, grapeseed, coconut, or sunflower oil) before using on the skin.
- Lavender and tea tree oil are two of the few oils that don’t require dilution. They are ideal for treating cuts & scrapes as they are antibacterial and antifungal.
- Many essential oils should not be used during pregnancy.
- Hydrosols come from the condensed water left following essential oil extraction, which makes them more dilute and gentle.
- Peppermint hydrosol is cooling for hot flashes. Neroli hydrosol is uplifting and acts as an antidepressant.
- Citrus oils should ideally be organic. Citrus and needle oils are good for a year, and then they oxidize. However, you can still use them in a diffusor.
- Essential oils are excellent for respiratory health. Eucalyptus, rosemary, pine, ravensara, niaouli, myrtle, tea tree and spruce are all helpful for that purpose.
- It can take 5000 roses to make just 1 tsp of essential oil, making high quality rose oil very expensive.
For more information and charts of essential oil uses, please see the Essential Oils page
Aromatherapy Organizations & Articles
The International Federation of Aromatherapists –www.ifaroma.org/en/home/ – the site offers resources for finding aromatherapists and aromatherapy education, along with information on the Aromatherapy Times Magazine.
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy – www.naha.org– a membership organization with educational resources for aromatherapists.
The Sense of Smell Institute – www.senseofsmell.org/index.php– a site from The Fragrance Foundation that explores the wonders of scent.
The following programs are approved by the American Holistic Nurses Association.
Clinical Aromatherapy Courses – https://www.rjbuckle.com/clinicalaromatherapy.html
Holistic Aromatherapy Certificate Program – www.aroma-rn.com
Battaglia, Salvatore, The Complete Guide To Aromatherapy, The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy, 2003, 2nd edition
Schnaubelt, Kurt; Advanced Aromatherapy, Healing Arts Press, 1995 & Aromatherapy Lifestyle, Terra Linda Scent and Image, 2004
Essential Oil Sources
Enfleurage – www.enfleurage.com – beautiful site with a wide variety of aromatherapy oil and supplies.
The Laboratory of Flowers – http://labofflowers.com – purchase high quality essential oils from around the world.
Mountain Rose Herbs – www.mountainroseherbs.com – find organic essential oils, aromatherapy sprays and more.
Original Swiss Aromatics – www.originalswissaromatics.com – A great source for essential oils, hydrosols, vaporizers and more.
Maren Good, Lecture at The Graduate Institute, March 16-17, 2012. Healing with Scents and Sounds
C. Norman Shealy, MD, Ph.D. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies, 2002.
Mark Evans B Phil., FNIMH. Yoga, Tai Chi, Massage, Therapies & Healing Remedies, 2004.
[Last Updated: 6/16/21]