Please donate:
amount: $
whole health alliance member login whole health alliance
martha's vineyard whole health alliance


Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile liquid plant materials, known as essential oils (EOs), and other aromatic compounds from plants for the purpose of affecting a person's mood or health. Scientific evidence is weak and preliminary but mildly encouraging for a limited number of claims. Essential oils differ in chemical composition from other herbal products because the distillation process only recovers the lighter phytomolecules. For this reason essential oils are rich in monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, as well as other VOC substances (esters, aromatic compounds, non-terpene hydrocarbons, some organic sulfides etc.).

Aromatherapy is a generic term that refers to any of the various traditions that make use of essential oils sometimes in combination with other alternative medical practices and spiritual beliefs. Popular use of these products include massaging products, medicine, or any topical application that incorporates the use of essential oils to their products.[1] It has a particularly Western currency and persuasion. Medical treatment involving aromatic compounds may exist outside of the West, but may or may not be included in the term 'aromatherapy'.

Modes of application

The modes of application of aromatherapy include:

  • aerial diffusion for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection
  • irect inhalation for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects
  •  topical applications for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care
  • oral, rectal, vaginal interfaces for infection, congestion, parasites, perfumery for body fragrancing, anointments


Some of the materials employed include:

  • Essential oils: Fragrant oils extracted from plants chiefly through steam distillation (e.g. eucalyptus oil) or expression (grapefruit oil). However, the term is also occasionally used to describe fragrant oils extracted from plant material by any solvent extraction.
  •  Absolutes: Fragrant oils extracted primarily from flowers or delicate plant tissues through solvent or supercritical fluid extraction (e.g. rose absolute). The term is also used to describe oils extracted from fragrant butters, concretes, and enfleurage pommades using ethanol.
  • Phytoncides: Various volatile organic compounds from plants that kill microbes. Many terpene-based fragrant oils and sulfuric compounds from plants in the genus "Allium" are phytoncides, though the latter are likely less commonly used in aromatherapy due to their disagreeable odors.
  • Herbal distillates or hydrosols: The aqueous by-products of the distillation process (e.g. rosewater). There are many herbs that make herbal distillates and they have culinary uses, medicinal uses and skin care uses. Common herbal distillates are rose, lemon balm and chamomile.
  • Infusions: Aqueous extracts of various plant material (e.g. infusion of chamomile)
  • Carrier oils: Typically oily plant base triacylglycerides that dilute essential oils for use on the skin (e.g. sweet almond oil)


Aromatherapy is the treatment or prevention of disease by use of essential oils. Two basic mechanisms are offered to explain the purported effects. One is the influence of aroma on the brain, especially the limbic system through the olfactory system. The other is the direct pharmacological effects of the essential oils[2]. While precise knowledge of the synergy between the body and aromatic oils is often claimed by aromatherapists, the efficacy of aromatherapy remains to be proven. However, some preliminary clinical studies show positive effects. [3] [4]

In the English-speaking world, practitioners tend to emphasize the use of oils in massage. Aromatherapy tends to be regarded as a complementary modality at best and a pseudoscientific fraud at worst.[5]

On the continent, especially in France, where it originated, aromatherapy is incorporated into mainstream medicine. There, the use of the antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties of oils in the control of infections is emphasized over the approaches familiar to North Americans. In France some essential oils are regulated as prescription drugs, and thus administered by a physician. French doctors use a technique called the aromatogram to guide their decision on which essential oil to use. First the doctor cultures a sample of infected tissue or secretion from the patient. Next the growing culture is divided among petri dishes supplied with agar. Each petri dish is inoculated with a different essential oil to determine which have the most activity against the target strain of microorganism. The antiseptic activity manifests as a pattern of inhibited growth.[6][7]

In many countries essential oils are included in the national pharmacopoeia, but up to the present moment aromatherapy as science has never been recognized as a valid branch of medicine in the United States, Russia, Germany, or Japan.

Essential oils, phytoncides and other natural VOCs work in different ways. At the scent level they activate the limbic system and emotional centers of the brain. When applied to the skin (commonly in form of "massage oils" i.e. 1-10% solutions of EO in carrier oil) they activate thermal receptors, and kill microbes and fungi. Internal application of essential oil preparations (mainly in pharmacological drugs; generally not recommended for home use apart from dilution - 1-5% in fats or mineral oils, or hydrosoles) may stimulate the immune system.

 (Definition from )

whole health alliance
whole health alliance
whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance
Search CalendarView Articles
whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance whole health alliance