Has anyone ever told you to take time to smell the roses? These days it's
more than general advice. The latest craze in relaxation says your sense of
smell may improve your life on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.
These are big claims, but those who practice aromatherapy swear by its
Consider this: everyone has had emotional responses, both pleasant and
unpleasant, to certain scents. The idea behind aromatherapy is to find what
scents make you feel good, and introduce those scents into your everyday life.
Aromatherapy depends on the essential oils of plants. Essential oils are
highly concentrated, aromatic oils that are either distilled or pressed from
the plant. Lavender, rosemary, and patchouli are considered good essential
oils for beginners to try.
Some scents are often extracted using chemical solvents (rose and jasmine
are common examples). The resulting oils are called absolutes and are not
considered suitable for aromatherapy. Absolutes are suitable for scenting,
soaps, candles and perfumes.
Experts recommend you read labels carefully and look for words like "100
percent pure and natural" when choosing an essential oil.
At home, you can use aromatherapy by evaporating essential oils into your
personal space with a diffuser. Diffusers can be made of unglazed porous clay
or ceramics. John MacNeill says he and his wife use a citrus oil in the diffuser
in their home to freshen stale air.
Five to 10 drops of essential oil in your bath is another way to enjoy
aromatherapy. Celina Xanthian says a couple drops of jasmine can uplift her
You can also inhale essential oils by applying a few drops to a handkerchief
and holding it under your nose. Many stores also offer "aromatherapy necklaces"
that allow you to take your favorite scent with you wherever you go. When
needed, you simply open the bottle and breathe in.
Aromatherapy massage is also increasing in popularity through spas and
health clubs. Enthusiasts say essential oils can be absorbed by the skin with
beneficial and wide-ranging effects.
Cultures around the world and throughout history have used aromatherapy
of one sort or another. The early Egyptians burned incense. The healing effects
of coriander, myrrh and sandalwood were known in ancient India.
In the 1920s, a French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, burned
his hand in his lab and plunged it in the closest bowl of liquid, which happened
to be lavender oil. The hand healed quickly and without scarring. Gattefosse
coined the phrase aromatherapy.
Today, the aromatherapy market is growing at the rate of 30 percent a year,
according to Cowboy Marketing in the U.S. The 1994 wholesale aromatherapy
market was approximately $300 million.
Aromatherapy is expected to be increasingly popular over the next decade.
It fits with the widely reported American lifestyle trend towards "nesting"
or "cocooning," whereby people want products that offer comfort and personal
Many aromatherapy shops offer starter kits for those wanting to get involved,
or you can purchase individual oils. Prices range from $3 for a 4 ml bottle
of lavender to $4 for a 4 ml bottle of patchouli. On the other end of the
scale, a 4 ml bottle of chamomile German costs $28.
Xanthian has as many as 18 favorite essential oils on hand at any time.
She says if you see jasmine for less than $50 an ounce, it's not real. Xanthian
says the most expensive oils aren't always the best. "Don't go buy a $150
bottle of rose oil," she warns. "Geranium is a very good scent and it's inexpensive."
Learning more about aromatherapy can cost you a little or a lot. Books
from the library are free. Evening courses on aromatherapy range from $30
to $200 but are a social way to learn more about this hobby.
Aromatherapy can open the door to a number of different jobs in retail,
consulting and health services.
For example, John and Jackie MacNeill own Escents Aromatherapy Bath and
Body Stores. "I don't see an end to it. New people come into it everyday,"
says John MacNeill.
Cheryl Cran set up a company called Escential Aromatics to advise hotels,
medical laboratories, retail stores and sales offices how to use scent to
create a pleasant (and profitable) atmosphere.
Aveda stores, based in Minneapolis, have incorporated personalized aroma
blending, stress relieving treatments, mini-facials and lifestyle workshops
into an international chain of stores. Artists and potters also have a niche
in the aromatherapy market, designing necklaces and diffusers.
Post-graduate certification is also available for those who want to make
a career of aromatherapy massage and consultation.
Enthusiasts say the best part of aromatherapy is that anyone can do it.
Even if you don't have a pronounced sense of smell, the chemical reactions
with your brain can create a feeling of well-being.
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy219 Carl St.San Francisco
International Federation of AromatherapistsInternet
Frontier AromatherapyYou'll find background information as well as a glossary and
suggested reading list
Aromatherapy at the Kevala CenterThis school is in Britain, but it gives you an idea of where
aromatherapy can take you on a professional level