June 11, 2000

by Royce Carlson

Our sense of smell plays an important role in our physiology. It not only helps us to connect with the world around us, certain fragrances can trigger physical and emotional reactions. Have you ever noticed how a particular smell can bring back vivid memories of past experiences associated with that smell? Aromatherapy, a branch of herbology, takes advantage of the effects of fragrances to produce a healing tool for mind, body and spirit.

Essential oils are the heart of aromatherapy. They are highly fragrant volatile plant oils concentrated from flowers, spices, herbs and woods. The natural oils are supposed to be the best. They are thought by some to represent the "life-force" of the plants. Different combinations of essential oils are used to alleviate different symptoms. They are applied by massage, baths, inhalations, compresses or used as perfumes.

Scientifically, there is evidence of the validity of aromatherapy as a healing tool. Tests have shown that even small amounts of fragrances can produce brain-wave changes in a sleeping person. The application of essential oils by massage adds to the positive effects. Massage alone is a powerful tool for stimulating health. The oils can increase skin heat, which is helpful in relaxing muscle during massage. Some of the essential oils have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and/or anti-inflammatory properties and, although there is no evidence that they are actually absorbed through the skin, their aromatics are absorbed via inhalation, which can produce positive physical effects.

Aromatherapy has become one of the most popular non-medical health aids in use these days. It is easily accessible and safe if done properly. Even if you are not sick, an aromatic bath can be an excellent and relaxing treat after a long day.

For a good introduction to aromatherapy visit Guide to Aromatherapy. Another site, Birdís Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy has a great cross-referenced catalog of essential oils and the symptoms they are supposed to treat. Finally, you can visit Zenzibarís Aromatherapy Category for more information including aromatherapy schools, associations and on-line stores where you can buy essential oils.

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