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Katie Lajiness

All About Aromatherapy

Certain smells can help you feel calm or energized — and maybe even protect your health.

Have you ever smelled a lemon or grapefruit and felt a burst of energy? And does potpourri make you pause, take a deep breath, and smile? If so, you’ve done aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy defined

Aromatherapy is the practice of using plant oils with pleasant aromas to promote calm and well-being. While it’s been in use for thousands of years across the globe, it’s only gotten popular in the U.S. over last few decades. The scientific research on it is still ongoing, but studies show that some scents can help us feel better.

How? The consensus is that aromatherapy stimulates your nose’s smell receptors, sending messages to the part of your brain that controls emotions. Hence the feelings of relaxation, lightened mood, or vitality.

How can you use it?

Most aromatherapy products use oils (“essential oils”) extracted from plants. Some people use diffusers to spread the oils through the air. Others like to add a few drops to a bath before soaking in the tub.

A 2014 National Institutes of Health study found that our noses can sense close to 10 trillion different scents. Given that, it makes sense that oils can help evoke different emotions and even ease physical symptoms. For example:

  • Lavender oil: Can help boost mood, lower anxiety, and reduce pain
  • Lemon oil: Can help reduce nausea
  • Rosemary oil: Can help improve mental sharpness
  • Cedarwood oil: Can help with sleep and lessen anxiety

Is aromatherapy healthy and safe?

Most essential oils are safe when used as directed, but it pays to be cautious. Some oils can cause allergic reactions if you apply them directly to your skin. Others might interact with medications. And the oils aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means the label might not include all the ingredients in the bottle. So be sure to talk to your doctor before you dive in.

– Katie Lajiness is the Associate Editor of Be.Well by Medica.