by Susie Michelle Cortright
Once a year or so, I will catch a most remarkable scent. One sniff
of this warm yet energizing aroma fills me with a fond nostalgia.
I call it "Mrs. Brower's perfume." Mrs. Brower was my first grade
teacher, and her chosen scent evokes a flood of memories.
Contemporary healers, therapists, and marketing gurus are grabbing
hold of a phenomenon that insects and animals instinctively
understand: the power of aroma.
Scientists pursue aromachology (the study
of scent and its ability to change human behavior) for its role
in everything from medicine to marketing, migraines to memory
loss, and relaxation to revitalization.
-->The ancestry of aromatherapy
The ancestry of aromatherapy goes back some 4,000 years.
Ancient Egyptians used aromatic botanicals for massage,
embalming, medicine, and cosmetics.
Hippocrates himself might have been the aromatherapy's first
spokesman 2,000 years ago, as he touted the benefits of aromatic
massage for physical and emotional well-being.
In the 10th century, the Arabian world invented the process of
distillation, which allowed more efficient extraction of essential
For centuries, cultures around the globe inhaled aromas, drank
potions, and wore aromatic amulets to protect them from harm.
In the early 1900s, France and England attempted to re-introduce
these ancient remedies and help them gain acceptance in the more
traditional medical community.
This trend continues in France today. Many French doctors
prescribe aromatic remedies, pharmacies stock essential oils,
and insurance companies pay for the treatment.
In the United States, aromatic healing is gaining ground.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to treat ailments.
These conditions range from physical conditions to emotional
problems. From headaches to herpes. Dry skin to acne. Arthritis
The essential oils of aromatherapy are extracted from aromatic
plants and herbs--from the flower, bark, root, twig, seed, berry,
rhizome, or leaves--generally through a process of steam distillation.
These oils may be inhaled or massaged into the skin, after combining
with a vegetable, nut or seed oil.
Massage with essential oils is most commonly used to alleviate
skin ailments and muscle pain or tension. Lavender, orange,
marjoram, and chamomile are particularly effective aromas in
the use of massage.
Essential oils can be inhaled with the help of a vaporizer,
an electric diffuser or an aroma lamp.
>How does it work?
Our sense of smell is more complex than you might think.
Your nose contain thousands of olfactory nerves.
While your tongue has the ability to taste sweet, sour, salt,
and bitter, it is your sense of smell that creates all the
delightful flavors you experience.
The olfactory bulb is part of your brain's limbic system,
which is not under conscious control. The limbic system
controls digestion, libido, and emotions.
So, it's not your imagination that scents evoke emotion.
Aromas actually trigger the release of chemicals in the
brain that create a feeling of well-being. Scientists say
your body's response to an aroma takes just four seconds.
-->Which Essential Oils are Right for You?
Essential oils are available in natural and synthetic forms.
Natural essential oils are not oils but non-oily,
non-water-soluble substances, which dissolve in alcohol
and combine with true oils. Pure, natural essential oils
may be as much as 70 times more potent than the plant
Some synthetics are derived from natural products. The
exact formulation of an essential oil is virtually
impossible to reproduce in the laboratory. Even the
smallest variation can produce significant changes in
the oil's effect.
Some synthetic oils fall into the category of artificial
fragrances, entirely made of petroleum products. These
products generally do not produce the same therapeutic effects as
Each essential oil is comprised of different hormones and
vitamins, which combine to create different effects.
Furthermore, the effects of each essential oil can vary depending
on the botanical species and where it is grown. The effects of
particular aromas also vary among cultures and individuals,
so the results of aromatherapy are not universal. Still,
aromatherapists have developed a roster of scents with
relatively predictable effects:
Jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli
lemon, basil, bergamot, sweet orange, peppermint, eucalyptus,
(dry hair) cedarwood
(normal hair) lavender, ylang ylang
(oily hair) rosemary, lemongrass
cedarwood, clary sage, fennel, geranium, nerali, Roman chamomile
lavender, myrrh, cardamom, cedarwood, German chamomile, clary sage,
(all skin types) Lavender, geranium, ylang ylang
(dry skin) rosemary, rosewood, carrot seed, sandalwood, peppermint,
(oily skin) basil, eucalyptus, cedarwood, cypress, lemongrass,
ylang ylang, sage
© Susie Michelle Cortright is the
author of several books for women
and founder of the award-winning Momscape.com, a website designed
to help busy women find balance. Visit
and get Susie's *free* course-by-email "6 Days to Less Stress" as
well as the *free* pdf ebook, "Spa Recipes for All Seasons."