The term aromatherapy, simply put, means treatment through the use of a pleasant scent. Even before the term originated, ancient cultures used essential oils from the fragrant parts of plants for medicinal purposes. In the 1930's, a French chemist experimented with lavender oil and found that it helped heal a burn. Shortly thereafter, wounded WW II soldiers in France were being treated successfully with essential oils.
Over time, much has been discovered about the healing qualities of these oils. It is worth noting that while they are referred to as oils, in reality, essential oils are the non-oily liquid that is distilled from the plant. Because they are potent, whenever they are used on the skin dilution in a carrier oil is recommended. (see below) Popular oils such as lavender, peppermint and lemon can be found in many beauty and cleaning products. Each oil has its own benefits and uses. The versatile oil Lavender is calming and soothing. It is helpful for sleep, skin irritations and sore muscles. Lemon is uplifting and refreshing so it is a great mood enhancer. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties which make it ideal for cleaning. Peppermint is invigorating and useful for sluggishness. It also has cooling properties so it is helpful for nasal congestion.
Oils are labeled as single note, meaning one specific oil or as a blend which combines several oils that work well together for a particular purpose. You can also experiment and make your own unique blend with your favorite oils.
Some of the most common methods of using the oils are:
Inhalation- as simple as putting a few drops of oil on your hand, on a steaming facecloth or in an inhaler made specifically for the purpose.
Diffusion-there are many electric diffusers on the market or you might try a reed diffuser, aromatherapy body or room mist or even a purely scented candle.
Topical application- Essential oils are potent and should always be mixed with a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, coconut or olive to name a few. Even mixing with your favorite cream or lotion before applying to your skin is fine.
Essential oils are available in retail stores, online or through multi level marketing companies. Many brands are on the market so it can be confusing when you shop but here are guides detailing what the oils can be used for. I suggest picking a few oils that appeal to you based on scent and use and then have fun with them!