Aromatherapy: Herbs, Oils and More

In this article, we discuss the origin of aromatherapy and give you information about aromatherapy benefits and how to perform aromatherapy in your own home. Did you know that aromatherapy was discovered in the late 1920s? In 1928, French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefoss was working in a laboratory at his family's perfumery. A sudden explosion severely burned his hand, which he quickly plunged into a container of lavender oil. Afterward, he was surprised by how quickly his hand healed.

Gattefoss began exploring the therapeutic properties of plants and later coined the term "aromatherapy." For many people, aromatherapy conjures up images of scented oil and candles, maybe a bubble bath at the end of a stressful day. But nowadays aromatherapy is far more than just fragrant lotions and sweet-smelling incense.

Aromatherapy — the application or inhalation of what are called essential plant oils — is a growing industry. Many essential oils have medicinal properties that heal infections or calm frazzled nerves. You can purchase essential oils in stores that sell natural products and through catalog and Internet companies. Most are mixed with a lotion made from vegetable oil, such as almond or grape seed, and then applied to the skin.

One of the most popular ways of enjoying the effects of aromatherapy is with a diffuser and a few drops of an essential oil — perhaps lavender to calm down after a hectic day or lemon for a little pick-me-up. The simplest diffuser is a pot of boiling water on the stove with a few drops of an essential oil added to it. Carefully lean over and you have a facial steam.

The Cadillac of diffusers is the nebulizer, a small machine that diffuses essential oils on a current of air. The nebulizer ionizes and suspends very fine oil molecules in the air for maximum effect. An increasing number of health professionals are using aromatherapy to alleviate stress, pain and infection. One key factor in the success of aromatherapy is the nose and its powerful sense of smell.