Home Aromatherapy: Recipes and How-To

Learn how you can embrace the wonders of home aromatherapy and harness the power of essential oils to reduce stress and promote wellness.

| October/November 1998

  • Home Aromatherapy
    Aromatherapy can ease stress, ease pain, kill bacteria, and cleanse the body of toxins.
    Photo by Adobestock/MadeleineSteinbach

  • Home Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to reduce stress and promote healing and wellness. According to practitioners and devotees of the craft, these essential oils — extracted from the roots, stems, branches, bark, leaves, fruit, and flowers of various plants — carry medicinal properties that are activated when massaged into the skin, inhaled, used in baths, or diffused throughout a room.

"Aromatherapy may take a little bit longer to work [than do Western medicines]," says Carolyn Sajdecki, lecturer of aromatherapy at the College of DuPage in Illinois. Its power works quietly, she explains, but the changes it can bring about are far more lasting — addressing the root cause of a problem, rather than just masking the symptoms.

Sajdecki makes a clear distinction between cosmetic fragrances and essential oils. A lemon-scented fragrance, though it may smell like pure lemon essence, does not have the essential oil's antiseptic and astringent therapeutic properties. "Aromatherapy is more than just messing around with pretty smells," she says.

Aromatherapy can ease pain, kill bacteria, and cleanse the body of toxins, say its advocates. Each of the 130 or so varieties of essential oils used by aromatherapists is believed to have specific healing properties that can help relieve life's everyday pressures, stresses, and ailments, from sore throats and winter colds to more serious problems like bronchitis, sinusitis, and rheumatism.

How Aromatherapy Works

Aromatherapy relies on the sophisticated human olfactory system, of which the nose is but one component, explains author Susanne Fischer-Rizzi in her Complete Aromatherapy Handbook. The olfactory bulb, located at the top of the inner nasal cavity approximately at eye level, is covered with a mucous membrane about the size of a nickel. Despite its size, the membrane's structure and function is "nothing short of miraculous," notes Fischer-Rizzi, who explains: "The olfactory membrane is the only place in the human body where the central nervous system is exposed and in direct contact with the environment ... The hairs attached to the nerve cells — up to 80 million of them — are capable of carrying an incomprehensible amount of information, a capability that outperforms every known analytical human function."

With smell the keenest of all senses, humans are able to discem more than 10,000 odors. Our sense of taste is paltry by comparison. The tongue is capable of recognizing only that which is sweet, sour, bitter, or salty. All other perceived flavors are actually odors.

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