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Alternative Medicine: Aromatherapy


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils (the essence of the oils, in other words) from flowers, herbs and trees to enhance one's spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. The oils are produced by heating them and then distilling the steam.

Practitioners of aromatherapy and other people who believe in its usefulness say that it's beneficial for a wide range of symptoms and conditions, from acne to whooping cough.

There has been a fair amount of research conducted on the effects that odors have on the human brain and emotions. Results have shown that certain odors can affect mood, one's perception of one's own health, stress and anxiety level. The research suggests that aromatherapy can help to reduce your sense of stress and help you to relax during difficult times.

Aromatherapy practitioners apply the oils in various ways:

  • Placing drops of oil on a patient's pillow, so that the aroma is inhaled directly
  • Massaging the oils directly onto the body
  • Placing drops of oil in bathwater, lotions or dressings

    The field of aromatherapy is not regulated-the oils don't require approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Practitioners tend to use combinations of oils that they believe work best. For that reason, there's very little standardization, and it's been difficult to conduct large, controlled studies.

    On the other hand, some small studies have shown that people with cancer who receive aromatherapy treatment do experience a reduction in anxiety and depression and an increase in their sense of well-being. Some patients have reported a decrease in pain.

    If you're interested in aromatherapy, there's very little reason not to give it a try. It can be very relaxing, which is beneficial in and of itself.

    The National Cancer Institute; The National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health
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