A is for Aromatherapy

By Jeannine Re McNamara, RD
Senior Regional Clinical Manager

If you think about the last time you caught a whiff of cookies baking and thought of Mom or the scent of the ocean, and it brought you back to a relaxing vacation from the past, there’s no denying that our sense of smell has a profound effect on our thoughts and mood.

Promotes Wellness

Aromatherapy uses this concept to promote wellness in our lives. It uses extracts or essential oils, from various parts of plants; the flower, roots, leaves, stems as well as the bark of trees; to enhance our well being, both mental and physical. The inhaled aroma from these substances is thought to stimulate the brain, and help reduce pain, elevate mood, reduce stress, and even improve one’s memory and brain function.

Aromatherapy History

People have been using “aromatherapy” from as far back as 6,000 years ago, in countries such as ancient China, Greece, India, Italy and Egypt. These oils were used in many spiritual and healing rituals. Today, some studies have shown that certain essential oils can even be used to reduce anxiety during medical procedures as well as lower blood pressure and help with depression.

Essential Oils

Researchers believe that the aroma from these essential oils is captured by the sensory receptors of a person’s nose and then transferred to the brain where memories and emotions are stored. When these areas of the brain are activated, it can enhance your well being. Essential oils are not only inhaled but can also be used on the skin, when diluted in massage oil.

Massage Therapy

During massage therapy, diluted essential oils are used to stimulate well being through one’s sense of smell in combination with the healing and relaxing power of touch. In certain extreme cases, some essential oils are even ingested, but only when prescribed by a qualified professional, as there is always the risk of allergic reaction, drug interaction or toxicity.

Certified Aromatherapist

If you are interested in adding aromatherapy to your wellness plan, you can find a certified aromatherapist. Or you can purchase an aromatherapy diffuser which uses heat to fill the air with steam made from water that has a few drops of essential oil. You can also put a few drops of these oils on a cloth and place near your nose; however, in the case of allergies, this may be too strong a scent. There are sets of essential oils in rollerball pens, to place scent strategically on the back of the neck, the forehead or temples.


I enjoy having my diffuser, pumping intermittent bursts of scents into the air, so as not to overwhelm my senses but provide a delightful whiff here and there. Diffusers meant for all sizes of rooms, essential oils intended for diffusers or in rollerball pens, can be found in drug stores, department stores and of course online. You can find many essential oil blends as well as oils from individual plants. Typically, packaging will tell you what the different oils are beneficial for but, just in case, here is a list of the more common essential oils and what healing properties they are known for: Happy Scenting!

Essential Oil Types

Chamomile: Relaxation, pain relief
Eucalyptus: Purifying and invigorating
Lavender: Promotes calm and relaxation, used to help sleep, reduce blood pressure, and reduce pain
Lemon: Refreshing and invigorating, good for inspiration
Peppermint: Energizing, helps headaches and congestions
Sage: Stimulates and invigorates
Sandalwood: Aphrodisiac, antidepressant and has anti-inflammatory properties
Tea Tree:  Soothes, energizes and uplifts
Ylang Ylang: Relaxation