Aromatherapy, or essential oil therapy, refers to a range of traditional, alternative or complementary therapies that use essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds.
Essential oils have been used for nearly 6,000 years, with the aim of improving a person's health or mood. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) defines aromatherapy as "the therapeutic application or the medicinal use of aromatic substances (essential oils) for holistic healing."
The oils evaporate into the air using a diffuser container, spray, or oil droplets, or breathed in, for example, in a steam bath. Apart from providing a pleasant smell, aromatherapy oils can provide respiratory disinfection, decongestant, and psychological benefits. Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain connected to smell, including the nose and the brain. Molecules that enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs, and from there, to other parts of the body. As the molecules reach the brain, they affect limbic system, which is linked to the emotions, the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance. In this way, essential oils can have a subtle, yet holistic effect on the body.