Aromatherapy: a comprehensive guide

Get all the answers to your questions and find out why is aromatherapy becoming so popular


Aromatherapy is a type of holistic healing method that uses essential oils and plant derivatives to engage the sense of smell. The scents, either from oils or plants, can be used to target specific ailments and symptoms.

Although aromatherapy is a holistic therapy, it is recognized by many medical professionals as a valid method of treatment for many symptoms. It is not a “cure” by any means. But through aromatherapy, you will be able to manage your symptoms and continue living a fulfilling life.

How does aromatherapy work?

The main intention of aromatherapy is to bring balance to the body, mind, and spirit as a whole. This allows the body the clarity to help heal itself by drawing out negative energies.

The many benefits of aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is commonly used for the mental and psychological benefits. Many essential oils aim to calm the mind and soothe the soul.

This means they reduce anxiety and stress levels and promote cognitive function so the mind is able to perform at its maximum. This, consequently, can help with a number of physical issues too, such as pain and aching muscles, as these issues are often amplified by stress.

Cognitive functions and mood disorders

Cognitive functions and mood disorders aromatherapy

Since the primary goal of aromatherapy is to bring clarity to the mind and spirit, it’s unsurprising that the brain is the main organ affected by these soothing aromas.

Bringing clarity immediately translates into lifting the dark veil that covers negative thoughts. This is good to brighten up the mood, but can also work as a strategy against depression, for instance.

The most common benefits of aromatherapy in the field of cognitive functions and mood disorders are:

  • Boost memory
  • Boost energy and reduce fatigue
  • Boost concentration & focus
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Oversleeping
  • Irritability
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Digestive issues

By soothing the body, reducing stress and generally provide a good feeling, essential oils can also help with digesting either by direct intake or inhalation.

These are the most common benefits in this area:

  • Nausea
  • Reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Promote proper digestion
  • Balance appetite

Pain relief

As commented before, most pains and aches in the body are normally exacerbated by stress. Once the latter is removed by the relaxation of the body, the physical benefits tend to show right away too.

Aromatherapy is mostly used to treat pain problems such as:

  • Aching muscles
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Cramping from PMS
  • Menopausal cramping

Skin problems

Skin problems aromatherapy

Either through direct topical administration or by intake, essential oils contain nutrients and properties that can help with several skin problems. Note that not all oils will be suitable for this use as you need to consider their nutritional content.

Essential oils are mostly used to treat:

Blood disorders

The intake of certain essential oils can also help with several blood disorders. Depending on the oil use the effects might be as follows:

  • Promote proper blood circulation
  • Reduce the risk of clotting
  • Balance blood sugar levels
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes

Other uses

Aromatherapy has a wide scope of action. These are other common benefits of using essential oils that might perhaps interest you, but they couldn’t be inserted in bigger groups:

  • Reduce hair loss
  • Encourage hair growth
  • Reduce symptoms of cold and flu
  • Clear nasal congestion

Differences between essential oils

Differences between essential oils aromatherapy

Of course, not every essential oil or aroma is capable of doing providing every single benefit. Each oil has a set of properties that make it ideal for a handful of symptoms.

There are also dozens of essential oils available, so navigating between all the options can get tricky. If you’re looking to buy a small handful to have around the house, the top 5 essential oils are:


  • Can be used as an antiseptic
  • Can be used to ease the symptoms associated with depression
  • Can be used for a variety of sleeping disorders
  • Can be used to improve digestive issues
  • Can be used as a topical pain relief
  • Can be used to promote healthy skin


  • Can be used to ease the symptoms associated with depression
  • Can be used for a variety of sleeping disorders


  • Can be used to relieve cold and flu symptoms
  • Can be used to improve congestion issues
  • Can boost the immune system


  • Can be used to ease the symptoms associated with depression
  • Can boost the immune system


All 5 of these essential oils can be used for pain relief and stress reduction. It’s also helpful to keep clove essential oil in your household as it can be used as a topical analgesic.

One of the ways that aromatherapy works the best is by combining different oils together. This allows you to see the benefits of multiple oils within the same application.

Note: Although it’s not scientifically proven, there are a few essential oils that many claim can act as aphrodisiacs, such as sandalwood and jasmine.

How is aromatherapy administered?

How is aromatherapy administered

Many individuals are confused about how aromatherapy works. There are many methods of administering aromatherapy, professionally and at home. These methods can all be broken down into two categories: topical and inhalation. Let’s take a look:


Topical administration in aromatherapy refers to applying an oil onto the skin, normally through a massage. As the skin absorbs the oil, benefits come faster. It is the ideal option to manage symptoms like pain or aching muscles.

It’s important to know that essential oils have to be diluted before being applied to the skin. The concentration levels of the oils could be potentially toxic and harmful, so they always need to be mixed with a carrier.

The most used carriers are coconut or almond oil, although olive oil is also a popular option. The carrier oil is used to dilute the concentration and make the essential oils safe for use on skin. The ideal mixture is:

  • 10 drops of oil
  • 1 oz carrier oil

You’ll always want to do an allergy test before applying any oil to a large area of your skin.


Inhalation aromatherapy

Inhaling essential oils is most commonly done with the use of a diffuser. A few drops are sprinkled into the diffuser and simply inhaled by breathing. It is also the easiest way to combine and benefits from several essential oils at once.

Alternatively, you can add 2-3 drops of an essential oil in a small squirt bottle and spritz the mixture around the room.

Aromatherapy candles are also great. They provide a nice glowing ambiance, which can be calming. Plus, the aroma will soothe and calm your body and mind.


There are combinations of topical and inhalation methods that have proven useful. The most common combination is applying essential oils into a hot bath. This allows you to inhale the scent, as well as feel the benefits of the oil in the water.

This is an ideal method for anyone suffering from chronic pain. Water is another natural therapy that can be used to soothe aching muscles.

Side-effects of aromatherapy

Some people might experience side-effects when exposed to essential oils. These tend to be minimal and include nausea and skin irritation.

Pregnant women and those breastfeeding should avoid using essential oils until they speak to a doctor. If you do experience any type of side-effect, discontinue using the oil and speak to your healthcare provider.

Please note: Never ingest essential oils directly as they can cause damage to the liver or kidneys.

The benefits of an aromatherapist

The benefits of an aromatherapist aromatherapy

Aromatherapy, as a modern medicine, is a practice that can be performed in clinics. There is even a list of registered aromatherapists that you can find online. This is important if you’re looking to visit a clinic for aromatherapy, instead of performing it at home.

The best way to administer aromatherapy is by massaging the oils into the skin. Again, this can be done at home with a carrier oil handy.

The primary benefits of choosing a registered aromatherapist are:

  • The knowledge that the application of the oils will be done correctly and safely.
  • Getting a balanced treatment plan for your personal needs, with consideration of your lifestyle and habits.
  • Consideration of any existing issues and discussing further options to reduce or eliminate any issues you may have.

Using aromatherapy at home

Aromatherapy can easily be administered at home with the right supplies. Although essential oils can be expensive, there are often starter kits that will provide you with enough for the average household. These kits often have 5-10 different oils in 10oz bottles for a lower cost than buying the bottles individually.

Alternatively, you can purchase aromatherapy candles from your favorite retailer. This provides a similar experience for a fraction of the cost.

Please note: Essential oils and aromatherapy products do not require approval from the FDA. You are taking your chances if you choose a retailer you don’t know much about. Always go for the recommended retailers and services in order to be safe and stay healthy.

All essential oils are stored in cool, dark places. You’ll want to store any mixture in a dark container. Essential oils last up to a year when they are stored correctly.

How To Use Aromatherapy At Home

How To Use Aromatherapy At Home

When it comes to aromatherapy at home, you aren’t limited to using a diffuser. There are many other ways you can enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy, such as:

  • Evaporation: soak a cotton ball in the oil and leave it to sit in a bowl near you.
  • Steam treatment: add a few drops into a pot of boiling water and put your face in the steam.
  • Spray bottle
  • Bathtub: adding oils into a bath.
  • Foot soaking: add a few drops of oil into a foot tub and soak your feet.
  • Massage: topical application, massage oil.
  • Additive: add essential oils to your body lotion, shampoo, etc, to enjoy the benefits
  • Cold/hot compress: add a few drops of oil into the water used to make the compress, or add a few drops onto a piece of material and wrap it around the compress.

Simple recipes for a quick start

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best essential oil combinations and how to use them!

Relaxation Time


  • 1 oz carrier oil
  • 7 drops of chamomile
  • 5 drops of lavender

This mixture is ideal when you need to unwind or relieve stress. The oils are mixed together and stored in a dark container. Then, you can use them as a massage oil whenever you need them.

Alternatively, you can use a diffuser, just add 2 drops of chamomile and 1 drop of lavender instead.

Energy Boost


  • 8 drops of peppermint
  • 8 drops lemon
  • 4 drops of frankincense

This mixture is an all-natural “pick me up” for those mornings when you’re completely lacking energy. Mix them together and add the mixture to your diffuser.

If you want to create a massage oil, it’s 4 drops of peppermint, 4 drops of lemon and 2 drops of frankincense. This measurement will also work as a bath water additive.

Sleeping Spell

Sleeping Spell aromatherapy


  • 10 drops chamomile
  • 5 drops clary sage
  • 5 drops bergamot

Mix these essential oils together in a dark and air-tight container for storage. When you’re ready to go to sleep, add 1 or 2 drops of the mixture onto a tissue or thin cloth. Place the cloth inside of your pillowcase, ensuring that it won’t come into contact with your skin.

For this recipe, you can add a single drop of lavender into the mix for a pleasant scent. But be careful! Too much lavender will actually wake you up!

Improve Concentration


  • 4 drops peppermint
  • 6 drops of lemon
  • 1 oz carrier oil

If you’re going to be using a diffuser for this one, you’ll want 8 drops of peppermint and 12 drops of lemon. This mixture is ideal as a massage oil or bath water additive to help you get focused!

Go for it!

Now that you have a pretty good sense of what is aromatherapy and how it works, you must be excited to give it a try. Even if you don’t believe it will work, curiosity always wins. So, go for it! Let yourself be embraced by the healing aromas.

And assuming you’re a newbie, check out the following video to learn how to check in the essential oils are real and of good quality and with tips to use them efficiently.