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What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a type of alternative medicine that uses plant oils, also known as essential oils, to affect a person�s mood and health.  Aromatherapy is a general term that refers to any of the traditions that make use of essential oils.  Uses of these products include medicine, massaging products, or application of essential oils to the skin.

Not all smells are aromatherapy

Just because it smells strongly or smells good, it does not mean it is a true aromatherapy product or a true essential oil.  Fragrances, synthetic chemicals, and other products which don�t contain true essential oils do not provide the therapeutic benefits of real essential oils.  Note that the United States government does not regulate the production or quality of aromatherapy products or essential oils.  Many products state that they are �made with essential oils�, but that does not mean that they are made only with essential oils.  The product many also contain unnatural ingredients which could prevent the therapeutic benefits of real essential oil. 

A long history

While the field of aromatherapy is as old as history itself, the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse first use the word �aromatherapy� in the 1920s.  He burned his arm in an accident in his lab, he put the first liquid on it that he could find � which happened to be lavender oil.  Compared to the past burns he had, this one � which was treated with lavender essential oil � hurt less and healed more quickly.

Benefits

Aromatherapy can be delivered in several different ways, including:
- Aerial diffusion, which is often used to add fragrance to the air or disinfect the air
- Direct inhalation, which is often used for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, and psychological effects
- On-the-skin use, which is often used for massage, baths, or skin care

While many people use aromatherapy and essential oil for medical benefits, there are other benefits and uses too.  You can use essential oils in household cleaning and laundry cleaning.  Rosemary essential oil does wonders for dirty carpets! You can use some essential oils to repel insects.  Do you remember burning candles to drive away mosquitoes?  A key ingredients that makes those candles work is citronella.

Scientific evidence

Many medical professionals believe that aromatherapy can affect mood and help people relax.  However, there isn�t a large body of scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of aromatherapy and essential oils.  This is because, like many other alternative approaches to health, there have been few controlled, double-blind studies done.  These studies are very expensive, and there is little financial incentive for anyone to spend their money on these studies since they can�t register a patent on natural products and therefore guarantee a return on their research investment. 

However, there is some research proving the effectiveness of aromatherapy.  Researchers at Sloan-Kettering found that aromatherapy reduced claustrophobia in patients undergoing MRI scans.  The journal Periodontol published a study stating that essential oils are effective in mouthwash.

When in France...

In France, many mainstream physicians use aromatherapy as part of their practices � and some essential oils are even regulated and require prescriptions.  French doctors culture tissue samples in petri dishes and then test various essential oils in the samples to see which are most effective.