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Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants for relaxation and healing, when used correctly and safely. Essential oils are concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants. As a form of alternative medicine, aromatherapy is used for the purpose of altering a person’s mood, cognitive function or health. The effectiveness of aromatherapy is yet to be scientifically proven, however some evidence exists that essential oils may have therapeutic potential. Although aromatherapy is most often associated with essential oils being inhaled, they can also be massaged into the skin. Rarely, some may be taken by mouth, however, essential oils should never be taken by mouth without specific instruction from a trained and qualified specialist. Aromatherapy is most often used to enhance relaxation or make a room smell pleasant. Orange blossom oil and lavender oil are two examples that contain a large amount of an active ingredient that is thought to be calming.

Aromatherapy has been around for nearly 6,000 years. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them in cosmetics, perfumes, and drugs. Essential oils were also commonly used for spiritual, therapeutic, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes. René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, discovered the healing properties of lavender oil when he applied it to a burn on his hand caused by an explosion in his laboratory. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they were used to treat burns, skin infections, gangrene, and wounds in soldiers during World War I. In 1928, Gattefossé founded the science of aromatherapy. By the 1950s massage therapists, beauticians, physiotherapists, and some health care providers began using aromatherapy. It did not become popular in the United States until the 1980s. Today, many lotions, candles, and beauty products are sold as "aromatherapy." However, many of these products contain synthetic fragrances that do not have the same properties as essential oils. In the industry, products that include synthetic ingredients are frowned upon in holistic aromatherapy.

It is important to note that perfume oils (and usually listed as "fragrance" on an ingredient label) are not the same as essential oils. Fragrance oils and perfume oils contain synthetic chemicals and do not provide the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy.


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