What Is Aromatherapy? Facts and How It Works


No longer a fringe concept, aromatherapy is now being recognized more and more widely as a great supplement and support to treatments for a wide range of health concerns and issues. Beyond that, nobody can deny that it also greatly improves one’s sense of well being even without any health concerns! And how could it not? Essential oils are an amazing marriage of technology and nature resulting in a fiesta for your senses as well as a physical and emotional boost. It is an amazing example of globalization done right, too. Though I might never take a walk in a rain forest, I can experience the purest form of its plant scents, and the benefits they produce, in my essential oil. Though I might never walk through the rose fields of central Bulgaria, the rose capital of the world, I can experience all its soothing benefits in a bottle of rose essential oil. Essential oils bring the health benefits of the entire world to you in a small bottle. It seems the old adage is true; good things do come in small packages!

So how does it work?

Aromatherapy uses concentrated plant essences, most often in the form of essential oils, in order to promote healing and well being. Even a single rose can emit a delightful smell that elevates your mood and well being. But essential oils are so much more concentrated. For example, it takes 22 pounds of rose petals to make 5 milliliters of essential oils. This potency is what makes it therapeutic and strong enough to noticeably help your health. So, how does it work? Every drop of essential oil is made up of tiny chemical molecules. These molecules give essential oils their amazing smell. How many molecules are in just one drop of essential oil?


Yup, that’s 40 trillion. That translates to 40,000 molecules for every single cell in your body. The reason essential oils have such a potent scent is because there are so many molecules! How small are these molecules? Really small. They’re so small that they squeeze through the pores of your skin and enter your blood stream through your capillaries. This is another reason they are so effective. Another avenue is through your nose. Nerves send messages to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain mainly responsible for memories, moods, emotions, and recognition. Interestingly, essential oil molecules are small enough to pass through the blood brain barrier! The blood brain barrier is on of the brain’s structures to protect it from injury and contamination. It protects the brain from any germs or bacteria circulating in the blood. It functions like a fine mesh sieve, letting in only the tiniest of molecules. This is amazing when you consider that chemotherapy molecules are not always able to pass through the blood brain barrier. Smaller chemotherapy molecules may successfully permeate the barrier but larger molecules are blocked, making chemotherapy often ineffective in treating brain cancer. That is why brain cancer is often treated with smaller radiation. The research that shows us that certain parts of essential oils are capable of passing through this barrier is exciting and has opened up the possibility for exciting research findings!

Where did we get the term “aromatherapy”?

Rene-Maurice Gattefosse a French perfumer and chemist, is considered the father of aromatherapy. He discovered aromatherapy in 1910. While at the lab, he accidentally burned his hand. To alleviate the pain, he dunked it into the closest thing to him, which happened to be lavender essential oil. He was amazed at how well his hand healed and how little scarring remained. He was onto something! He began experimenting more and more and by World War I, he was using essential oils of lavender, thyme, lemon, and clove for their antiseptic properties on the soldiers in military hospitals! He even coined the term in 1937 when he published a book by that name. The books sets out his early clinical findings for therapeutic uses of essential oils for a variety of physical conditions. As such, aromatherapy is the therapeutic application of essential oils for holistic health and healing.

What have other aromatherapy experts said about it?

“Aromatherapy is… the skilled and controlled use of essential oils for physical and emotional health and well being.” Valerie Cooksley

“Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul.” Robert Tisserand

“Aromatherapy can be defined as the controlled use of essential oils to maintain and promote physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing.” Gabriel Mojay

“Aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It is an art and science which seeks to explore the physiological, psychological and spiritual realm of the individual’s response to aromatic extracts as well as to observe and enhance the individual’s innate healing process. As a holistic practice, Aromatherapy is both a preventative approach as well as an active method to employ during acute and chronic stages of illness or ‘dis’-ease.

It is a natural, non-invasive modality designed to affect the whole person not just the symptom or disease and to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the correct use of essential oils.” Jade Shutes

We are looking forward to being a source of helpful information on all things aromatherapy! Stay tuned for future blog posts where we will address the more practical aspects of aromatherapy and essential oils! If you haven’t checked what products we carry you can do so HERE.

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