Aromatherapy is one type of holistic therapy.  It relies on the use of scents or essential oils such as rose, lemon, lavender, and peppermint. The oils are added to the bath, massaged into the skin, inhaled directly, or placed in a room diffuser. Aromatherapy is used for pain, skin care, to alleviate tension, for fatigue, and to invigorate the body. Essential oils can affect the mood, alleviate fatigue, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation.

There are about 150 essential oils. Most oils have antiseptic.  The  essential oils are made from natural, pure plants.

History of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy had been around for over 6000 years. The Greeks, Romans, and ancient Egyptians all used aromatherapy oils. The Egyptian physician Imhotep recommended fragrant oils for bathing, massage, and for embalming their dead.  The modern era of aromatherapy is began in 1930 when the French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapy.

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

Essential oils stimulate the sense of smell. It is believed that they impact on how we feel.  Scents can change brain wave responses.   Smelling lavender increases alpha waves in the back of the head. Jasmine increases beta waves in the front.

The table below summarizes some research findings.

Name of the chemical component

Properties of the chemical component

Essential oils that contain the chemical


anti-inflammatory, calming, sedative and anti-viral.

Characteristic lemon-like smell, such as lemon grass, lemon balm, citronella, eucalyptus


bactericidal (kills bacteria), stimulant, energizing, vitalizing, antiviral, diuretic. Our pancreas produces 32 kinds of alcohol for use in human metabolism.

Rose, petitgrain, rosewood, peppermint, myrtle, tea tree, sandalwood, patchouli, and ginger


strongly bactericidal, tonic, stimulates immune system, invigorating, warming. Can produce slight liver toxicity if taken high doses for extended periods of time. Used in lip balms and cough drops.

Clove, cinnamon, thyme, oregano, savory, cumin.


wound healing, mucolytic (eases the secretion of mucous), stimulates new cell growth. used as a nail polish.

Camphor, rosemary, sage, eucalyptus globulus and hyssop


Very stimulating, potential skin irritants, anti-viral properties.

Lemon, orange, bergamot, black pepper, pine oils, nutmeg and angelica.


anti-phlogistic (moves fluids), anti-inflammatory, sedative, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic, bacteriostatic and immune stimulant.

Blue chamomiles, immortelle, tansy, yarrow and tagetes.


anti-fungal, sedative, calming, spasmolytic, fungicidal, anti-inflammatory.

Roman chamomile, lavender, clary sage, petitgrain, bergamot.

Lactones (part of ester group)

anti-inflammatory, mucolytic.

arnica, elecampane


harmonizing to the nervous system. antiseptic, stimulant, expectorant (increases secretions), spasmolytic, and diuretic.

Cinnamon, clove, anise, basil, tarragon, parsley, and sassafras.

What Problems Are Treated With Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is particularly effective for stress, anxiety, pain, digestive disorders and women's problems.


Animal studies have found that hyperexcited mice (who were feed to much caffeine) could be calmed with the aroma of lavender and sandalwood.


In a study reported in the British Medical Journal Lancet, elderly patients slept better and longer when a lavender.  The patients in this study were able to decrease sleeping pill use.


Science has shown that chicken soup is good for colds.  The may have been related to steam or the special aroma of the soup.


In a study conducted at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reported 63 percent fewer problems with claustrophobia after getting aroma therapy with vanilla.  In another study, 122 patients who were in an intensive care unit, reported feelings of improved well-being with lavender.

Go to the next page on Ayurveda.

Go to the next section chapter on history and ethics.






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Last modified: 07/31/08