Aromatherapy – What Is It, Why We Need It, And How To Use It

Posted on 19 Sep 13:46 by Diana N Ahuche

Aromatherapy practices the use of essential oils extracted from plants and herbs to treat conditions ranging from infections and skin disorders to immune deficiencies and stress. Essential oils have been well used for thousands of years and are still widely used throughout the world.

Aromatherapy is age old unique branch of herbal medicine that utilizes the medicinal properties found in the essential oils of various plants. Through a process of steam distillation or cold-pressing, the volatile constituents of plants oil (the  essence of the plants) are extracted from its flowers, leaves, branches, or roots. According to Dr. (rer.nat.) Kurt Schnaubelt, Director of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, the term “aromatherapy” is somewhat misleading because it can suggest an exclusive role for the aroma in the healing process. When “In actuality,” says Dr. Schnaubelt, “the oils exert much of their therapeutic effect through their pharmacological properties and their small molecular size, making them one of the few therapeutics agents to easily penetrate bodily tissues.”

Aromatherapy is very effective for bacterial infections of the respiratory system and the immediate and often profound effect that essential oils have on the central nervous system also makes aromatherapy an excellent method for stress management.


How Aromatherapy Works

According to Dr. Schnaubelt, “The chemical makeup of essential oils gives them a host of desirable pharmacological properties ranging from antibacterial, antiviral, and antispasmodic, to uses as diuretics (promoting production and excretion of urine), vasodilators (widening blood vessels), and vasoconstrictors (narrowing blood vessels). Essential oils act on the adrenals, ovaries, and the thyroid and can energize or pacify, detoxify, and facilitate the digestive process.” The oils therapeutic properties also very effective on treating infections, interacting with the various branches of the nervous system, modifying immune response, and harmonizing moods and emotions.


The Physiological Effects of Fragrance

Aromatic molecules that interact with the top of the nasal cavity give off signals that are modified by various biological processes before travelling to the limbic system, the emotional switchboard of the brain (the part of the brain that is most concerned with survival, instincts and emotions). Because the limbic system is directly connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, scientists have learned that oil fragrance may be one of the fastest ways to achieve physiological or psychological effects.

John Steele, Ph.D., of Sherman Oaks, California, and Robert Tisserand, of London, England, leading researchers in the field of aromatherapy,  have studied the effects on brain wave patterns when essential oils are inhaled or smelled. Their findings show that oils such as orange, jasmine, and rose have a tranquilizing effect and work by altering the brain waves into a rhythm that process calmness and a sense of well-being. In the same way, the so-called “stimulating” oils such as basil, black pepper, rosemary, and cardamom – work by producing a heightened energy response.

Inhaling the fragrance of certain essential oils can help clear sinuses or free congestion in the chest, as well as alter the neurochemistry of the brain to produce changes in mental and emotional behavior. Even aromas too gently to be consciously detected can have significant effects on central nervous system activity, sometimes to the point of cutting in half the amount of time needed to perform a visual search task.


How to Use Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to affect the body in several ways. The benefits of essential oils can be obtained through inhalation, external application or ingestion.

Through a diffuser: Diffusers disperse microparticles of the essential oil into the air. They can be used to achieve beneficial results in respiratory conditions, or to simply change the air with the mood-lifting or calming qualities of the fragrance.

External application: Essential oils can be inhaled (rub in your palms to active the active compounds before inhaling), oils are readily absorbed through the skin, topically. Other convenient applications include baths, massages. You can spray your preferred oil, what mood you are going for, onto your pillow, add to your lotion, carry a few drops on a cotton ball placed in a tight container or bag. Using essential oils in diffusers is a good way to extend the duration of inhalation and can cover greater space.

Essential oils in a hot bath can stimulate the skin, induce relaxation, detoxify, and energize the body. According to Debra Nuzzi St. Claire, M.H., an aromatherapist and herbalist from Boulder, Colorado, using certain essential oils, such as rosemary when taking a bath, can stimulate the elimination of toxins through the skin. In massage, these oils can be worked into the skin and depending on the oils and the massage technique can either calm or stimulate the person being massaged with the potent oils. But when used in compresses, essential oils soothe minor aches and pains, reduce swelling, and treat sprains.

Floral waters: These can be sprayed into the air or directly onto skin that is too sensitive to the touch.

Internal application: For certain conditions (such as organ dysfunction/disorder), it can be more advantageous to take oils internally. But it is wise to receive proper guidance for internal use of essential oils.


Common Conditions Benefited by Aromatherapy

The value of aromatherapy in the treatment of infectious diseases has gained increased attention in recent years and continuous to over conventional medicines. Its use for this purpose is widespread in France, where a system of aromatherapeutic medicine has been developed. French physicians routinely prescribe aromatherapy preparations, and French pharmacists even stock essential oils alongside conventional drugs. In Engalnd, aromatherapy is used mainly for stress-related health issues. Hospital nursing staff administers essential oil massage to relieving stress associated with surgery, terminal cancer and AIDS. English hospitals also use a variety of vaporized essential oils (including lemon, lavender, and lemongrass) to help combat the transmission of airborne infectious diseases. Essential oils are used topically on wounds to counter infections as well.


Bacterial and Viral Infections

Essential oils are powerful antimicrobial (microbe-fighting) agents. They lack the negative side effects (kidney toxicity, anemia, lowered while cell count, deafness) of conventional antibiotics and do not destroy intestinal bacteria, the loss of which can lead to secondary infections.

In a hallmark study conducted back in 1973, a blend of the essential oils of clove, cinnamon, Melissa, and lavender was found to be as effective in treating bronchial conditions as were commercial antibiotics. “Because the oils work in a different way from antibiotics, they do not have the usual side effects, and they tend to stimulate the immune system instead of depressing it,” says Tisserand. “Oils of cinnamon and eucalyptus are as powerful against some microorganisms as conventional antibiotics, and are especially and significantly effective against flu. Sandalwood oil from native of Mysore, India, is not only a classic perfume oil but is also a traditional remedy for sore throats and laryngitis.

Due to their strong antiviral properties, many essential oils are highly effective against the herpes simplex virus, according to a study presented at the 1st Congress on Aromatherapy in Cologne in 1987. Jean Valnet, M.D., a French physician, recommends a blend of lemon and geranium; Tisserand suggests Eucalyptus radiate bergamont. Dr. (rer. nat.) Dietrich Wabner, a professor at the Technical University of Munich, reports that a one-time application of either pure rose oil or pure Melissa oil led to complete remission of herpes simplex lesions.

The most effective treatment is to apply the oil(s) at the first sign of an outbreak. If herpes lesions have already appeared, the oil(s) is applied directly on the lesions and, in most cases, the lesions dry within a day or two and are complete remission within three to five days. If the drying process creates discomfort, a 10 percent dilution of the essential oil(s) is mixed in a high quality vegetable oil. “We have documented this pattern of remission in almost all the cases we were able to observe over the years,” reports Dr. Schnaubelt. “Whenever the specific pain indicating the recurrence of the lesions occurs, oils are applied before the outbreak of the lesions and prevented. After repeating this procedure three to four times, herpes simplex typically stops recurring.”


“Another effective use of essential oils is the topical treatment of shingles, a painful skin virus,” says Dr. Schnaubelt. “Our greatest success in the treatment of shingles is by applying a blend of 50 percent Ravensera aromatica and 50 percent Calophyllum inophyllum (related to St. John’s Wort). Drastic improvements and complete remission occur within seven days.” 

Skin Conditions

Essential oils are also utilized for skin problems based on their skin-friendly properties produce an effect similar to hormones (neroli is also utilized to prevent stretch marks); rosemary oil, known to regenerate cells and improve metabolic activity in the inner-layer of the skin; and possibly the most effective anti-inflammatory agent in aromatherapy. Thyme-linalol and rosewood oils are effective when used for acne topically. Everlast and eucalyptus oil (commonly used to regulate overproductive sebaceous glands, which help to retain body heat and prevent sweat evaporation). Dr. Valnet points out that essential oils as basil, cinnamon, sage, garlic, lavender, lemon, onion, savory and thyme have been recorded effective due to their antitoxic and antivenous properties. 

Muscular Disorders

Many studies have outlined the effects of various essential oils on the nervous system and their ability to relieve muscle spasm. In this regard, combining essential oils with high proportions of ester compounds (clary sage, roman chamomile, and lavender) are especially effective. They are commonly used in massage and advanced spa treatments.


Studies done by Dr. Hildebtret Wagner, Chair of the Institution of pharmaceutical Biology at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich, Germany, show that some essential oils that stimulate, such as thyme, cinnamon, and clove, can be used as anti-inflammatory when treating arthritis. Dr. Wagner suggests that the irritation caused by these essentials oils stimulates the adrenal glands and triggers the release of anti-inflatory corticoid (the body’s natural cortisone-like material. The more practical and  effective application of everlast and eucalyptus to relieve arthritis pain is commonly used in French medical aromatherapy practices. “Because of their very strong local anti-inflammatory action, these oils often reduce arthritis symptoms within moments of application,” says Dr. Shnaubelt.


Here Are Some Essential Oils and Their Applications  

According to Dr. Schnaubelt, the following essential oils are among the most widely used for therapeutical purposes:

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiate): This particular form of eucalyptus, also known as Eucalyptus Australiana, is a classic known as antiviral and expectorant agent. It is best to be used as a diffuser, or as a chest rub, topically. You can also add it to your body wash or lotion to benefit externally.

How To Use: To make a eucalyptus inhalant, add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a handful of the leaves to hot water or a vaporizer and deeply inhale the steam vapor for five to 10 minutes. You can also use eucalyptus EO in a warm bath or shower.


Everlast (Helichrysum italicum): Some skin care professionals have been using everlast in dilutions of 2 percent or lower for its tissue-regenerating qualities on scars. When applied topically, everlast serves as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent - it can stimulate new cell growth, and it can prevent hemorrhaging. The mixture can be applied to swelling after sports injuries or bruising. Everlast contains ketone, (an organic chemical derived by oxidation of alcohol), which makes everlast oil limited to only topical application in concentrations not exceeding 2 percent.

How To Use: Essential oils are part of aromatherapy. Helichrysum essential is inhaled. It can be used it topically.

To inhale helichrysum essential oil, place drops of the oil in a bowl of hot water and then lean over the bowl, breathe in and out to inhale.

People can also put drops of the essential oil in a diffuser to disperse the scent in their personal space.

To use it topically, people must mix the essential oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil, before applying it to the skin.


Geranium (Pelargonium x asperum): A fragrance oil with potent antifungal and antiviral properties. It is gentle on the skin and it gives body to the fragrance of many essential oil composition. Antifungal essential oils are used therapeutically, topically, to treat overgrowths of fungi on the skin. Choosing a mixture of two or three oils of antifungal EO, along with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, gives you the best chance for results. 

How To Use: Mix 2 to 3 drops of each oil along with 20 drops of your carrier oil, clean and apply the mixture directly on the affected area with disposable material like cotton gauze (avoid spreading the fungus over healthy skin area). You may need to apply the oils a couple of a day over a period of several weeks to see results.


Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Known classic oil of aromatherapy. It can be used undiluted on burns, insect bites, and minor injuries. A high ester content gives lavender  a calming, almost sedative quality.



How To Use: Lavender essential oil is a very versatile EO, and serves multiple health and wellness purposes, but the most common one is its calming sedative ability. 

Rub 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your palms, rub your palms vigorously, then use the inhalation method to draw the scent all the way into your amygdala gland (the emotional warehouse) in your brain to calm the mind and relax you. Then, rub on the feet, temples, wrists (or anywhere) for an immediate calming effect on the body. Great for use in crowded areas like planes or subways to carve out your own personal oasis, use gently, though lavender essential oil does not have an offensive aroma, but be mindful of others around.


Mandarin (Citrus reticulate): Mandarinhas calming properties and has universally pleasing fragrancethat makes this oil a top choice to release anxiety.While lavender relaxes, mandarin calms anxiety.

How To Use: It is typically dispersed in a room or space with a diffusor. 


Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini): Palmarosa has a very pleasant fragrance and is an excellent anti-septic/antiviral for skin care and in treating herpes. Palmarosa oil is well-known for its hydrating properties, therefore assist in preventing inflammation and quelling dehydration. It also balances the sebum or oil production of your skin, aids in fast healing of cuts and bruises, and helps remedy acne breakouts. 

How To Use: Palmarosa can be applied topically, as a compress, used in the bath, through inhalation, or by adding a few drops in a diffuser. 


Peppermint (Menthaa piperita): Peppermint essential oil has so many health and wellness benefits, it's no wonder this oil is a staple in many people's medicine cabinets. Whether you are struggling with an assignment at work, studying for a test, or want to able to focus on an important project, peppermint is your go-to essential oil. According to the Wheeling Jesuit University research, the aroma of peppermint can impact cognitive functions and assist with concept formation, attention span, memory, and reasoning.

This friendly oil works to freshen breath, used to soothe nausea and travel sickness, relieve stomach aches and bloating, promotes digestion. Peppermint essential oil is naturally used to promote light mood and to perk the senses up before a long meeting, and relax overworked muscles (thanks to its menthol). Peppermint oil also helps to clear congestion, quiet headaches and tackle symptoms from PMS. It works in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome as well.

How To Use: To use peppermint oil for pain relief, simply apply 2–3 drops topically to the area of concern three times daily, add 5 drops to a warm water bath with Epsom salt or Himalayan salt. Combining peppermint with lavender EOs is also a great way to help your body relax and reduce muscle pain.


Some Other Known Benefits of Peppermint Include:

To clear sinus and other respiratory congestion, diffuse 5 drops of peppermint in a diffuser or apply 2–3 drops topically to your temples, chest and back of neck.

To help relieve seasonal allergies symptoms, diffuse peppermint and eucalyptus oils, or apply 2–3 drops of peppermint oil topically to your temples, chest and back of neck.

To boost your energy levels and improve concentration with peppermint oil, take 1–2 drops internally with a glass of water, or apply 2–3 drops topically to your temples and back of neck.

To help relieve itching, simply apply 2–3 drops topically to the area of concern or add 5–10 drops to a warm water, wash the area. If you are using peppermint on sensitive skin, combine it with equal parts carrier oil, coconut or olive oil, before topical application. You can also mix peppermint oil into a lotion or cream in place of the carrier oil. Mixing peppermint oil with lavender oil for itch relief, as lavender has soothing properties as well.

To use peppermint oil as a natural headache remedy, simply apply 2–3 drops to your temples, forehead and back of neck.

To help relieve IBS symptoms, try taking 1–2 drops of pure quality peppermint oil internally with a glass of water before meals. You can also apply 2–3 topically apply some to your abdomen.

To get rid of nausea, simply inhale peppermint oil directly from the bottle, add one drop of peppermint oil to a glass of distilled water and drink or rub 1–2 drops behind your ears.

To boost your oral health and freshen your breath, squeeze your toothpaste into a cup, add a few drops of peppermint essential oil onto the cup, mix well, save to use. You may add a drop under your tongue when needed to freshen breath, ensure you get a clean safe quality. 

To use peppermint oil for hair to promote hair growth and nourishment, simply add 2–3 drops of peppermint to your usual shampoo and conditioner. Make a peppermint oil spray by adding 5-10 drops of oil to a spray bottle filled with water and spray to scalp, or simply massage 2–3 drops of peppermint oil into your scalp while showering.


Roman Chamomile ( Anthemis nobilis): Recommended to calm mind or body when upset. One drop of roman chamomile rubbed on the solar plexus(a radiating nerves of the sympathetic system at the pit of the stomach), can bring quick physical or mental stress relief.


How To Use: 

To fight anxiety and depression, diffuse 5 drops, or inhale it directly from the bottle.

To improve digestion and leaky gut, apply 2–4 drops topically to the abdomen and rub well. When diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil, it can even be used in low doses for children with colic and diarrhea.

For a restful sleep, diffuse chamomile oil next to bed, rub 1–2 drops onto the temples or inhale it directly from the bottle.

To help calm children, diffuse Roman chamomile oil at home or dilute 1–2 drops with coconut oil and apply the mixture topically to the area in need (such as the temples, stomach, wrists, back of neck or bottoms of the feet).

To use as a home remedy for acne, treat various skin conditions, and combat the signs of aging, add 2–3 drops to a clean cotton ball and apply chamomile oil to the area of concern, or add 5 drops to a face wash. For very sensitive skin, dilute chamomile with a carrier oil before applying it topically. 

To promote heart health, apply 2–4 drops topically over the heart/chest or take internally by placing it under the tongue.

To ease nausea, inhale Roman chamomile directly from the bottle, or combine it with ginger, peppermint and lavender oil and diffuse. It can also be used topically on temples to help with settle nausea.


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): There are a few varieties of rosemary which have different chemical compositions from others. The softest and most expensive of rosemary is rosemary verbenon and is a staple in aromatherapy skin care compositions because it activates the metabolism in the outer layer of the skin, stimulates cell regeneration. One of the things Rosemary EO is famous for is that  it improves brain function. This wild age-old aromatherapy oil  has proven its ability to reduce joint inflammation, increase blood circulation, ease stress. Rosemary oil is also know to perk up your mood when you are anxious or nervous. 

How To Use: To relieve stress and maintain concentration while studying, diffuse Rosemary essential oil in the room for a maximum of 30 minutes. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply around the head and back of neck. You drop a few drops on a clean napkin to inhale while on the go.


Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi): As a prized flower in ancient history and religious settings, spikenard is perhaps best suited for aromatherapy purposes. oil is from the root of a plant from the Himalayan mountains. Spikenard has an open cycle and a theorectically endless life span. There’s a common believe that spikenard essential oils embodies the life energy of the plant itself. For the reason of life energy being present in spikenard, the oil it is often used at the core of aromatherapy blends that are aimed much toward benefiting human psyche as they are toward skin care or treatment.

How To Use:  or add the oil to an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer. 

Spikenard oil may also be used for a luxurious scented bath, to do so, add several drops of spikenard to a tablespoon of carrier oil, then add to warm, running bathwater and indulge. You can add more as needed.

Note: You may want to put a bathmat on the bottom of the tub to prevent slipping on the oil.

Be sure to not apply undiluted spikenard oil directly to your skin.


Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): A nonirritating antiseptic, tea tree is abundant in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It is useful in healing pus-filled wounds and for treating many types of mild to chronic infections when applied topically. It may even help to prevent and reduce acne scars, leaving you with smooth, clear skin.

How to use: Dilute 3 drops of tea tree oil into 2 ounces of witch hazel. Use it as a toner throughout the day. You can use a face wash, moisturizer, and spot treatment containing tea tree oil as well.


Aromatherapy in the Home

Aromatherapy is ideally suitable for home use. While it is true that ignorantly or irresponsibly using essential oils may pose some risks. Typical problems usually caused by improper or excessive use of potentially irritating or allergice essential oils such as cinnamon, oregano, clove, or savory, but with proper knowledge the problems can be easily avoided. Many health food stores now carry essential oils, and “starter kits” with selections of the most commonly used essential oils. The following are some typical application of oils at home:

Daily hygiene: Eucalyptus radiate, Ravensera aromatic, and niaouli are gentle antiviral essential oils that can be spread all over the skin before, during, or after morning shower as this practice strengthens the body’s resistance to sickness.

Digestive and stress-related discomfort: Dropping one drop of anise seed oil on a spoon of honey (or by itself) and taken immediately helps to release gastrointestinal discomfort. Tarragon helps stimulate digestion and to calm a nervous digestive tract.

Relaxation: Essential oils like citronella and Eucalyptus citriodora can be rubbed on the wrists, solar plexus, and temples for relaxation. Mandarin fragrance is favored by children, and its calming qualities can slow down hyperactive little ones. Lavender oil added to the bath water or sprayed on bed sheets before bedtime reduces tension and enhances relaxation.


The Future of Aromatherapy

“While aromatherapy is practiced by medical doctors in France, this is not the United States,” Tisserand says. “With the increasing demand for holistic health care and the ‘green revolution', the demand for aromatherapy will increase, and hopefully we will reach the point where medical doctors will incorporate it into their repertoire. It will become routine for doctors to send samples to the pharmacist for testing, and identify the relevant aromatherapy for the patient. The stress-relieving properties associated with aromatherapy make it an indispensable part of health care.”

Dr. Schnaubelt also believes that the use  of aromatherapy will become increasingly widespread. “For many common infectious diseases aromatherapy offers more effective and more wholesome solutions than conventional medicine,” Dr. Schnaubelt says. “If aromatherapy was allowed to compare only on its merit it would be a great competitor for a variety of aspects of conventional medicine. Much of the future of aromatherapy will be determined through political processes. The powers in place in the medical market’ will try to keep aromatherapy out because it threatens profits to the conventional medical establishment. However, the demand of the consumer for more and better access to alternative methods will continue to offset such vested interests and should do much to make aromatherapy more popular as a healing modality.