An ancient technique used by the Egyptians and Romans and whose medicinal properties were researched in France, first by Raymond Gatefosse, a chemist, in 1920 and thirty years later by Dr Jean Valnet. While in France essential oils may be prescribed in the form of capsules as an alternative to conventional medicine, in Great Britain the oils are never administered orally, aromatherapy combines healing massage with oil that have the medicinal properties of plants.

How Does It Work

Essential oils, extracted from the roots, flowers, fruits, leaves and stalks of plants and certain trees, are absorbed in the body by inhalation and through the skin. The scents released in aromatherapy stimulate the hypothalamus, the area of the brain influencing the body's hormone system. It is thought that mood, metabolism and stress levels can be affected by smell. Clinical research into essential oils in the treatment of medical conditions is limited. It is not understood how the oil molecules actually enter the bloodstream, but the psychological effects have been well studied.

Aromatherapy is used in nursing in hospitals and hospices. Though many doctors do not believe it is specifically more beneficial than therapeutic massage alone, they do recognise that deep relaxation and feelings of calm can be associated with a certain smell and that these feelings contribute to the healing process.

Conditions That Respond To Aromatherapy

Digestive disorders
Low immune system
Menstrual problems
Pregnancy & labour
Stress-related conditions


Essential oils should not be used neat on the skin or applied near the eyes.

Although aromatherapy can be beneficial during pregnancy the following oils should not be used by pregnant women: German camomile, clary sage, rosemary, basil, peppermint, cedarwood, cypress, juniper, hyssop, myrrh, nutmeg, origanum, fennel, pennyroyal, marjoram, cinnamon, and clove.

Rosemary, hyssop, sweet fennel, sage and wormwood should also be avoided by epileptics while peppermint and thyme must not be given to small children

Peppermint and camomile block the therapeutic effects of homeopathy, they should be taken at least half an hour before taking homeopathy.

A well-qualified practitioner is used to dealing with pregnant women, children and individuals with various conditions and will know which oils are suitable for each client.


A range of oils is used in treatment (some are not appropriate in pregnancy, for young children or for certain conditions). Trained aromatherapists use high-quality, natural oils diluted in a "'carrier" oil or blended into a cream. Lower dilutions are used for sensitive skin and in pregnancy. Practitioners should only use oils that are organic and bought from reputable companies. Aromatherapy massage techniques are based on Swedish massage which aims to relieve tension in the body and to improve circulation as well as stimulating the lymphatic system to assist removal of metabolic wastes from the body. The patient may also be asked to use certain oils under the supervision of the practitioner in inhalations: adding a few drops on a handkerchief or in a bowl of hot water, or by using compresses and baths. Light bulb, candle lit or electric diffusers are also popular and relatively safe.

Lavender is the most versatile oil, the safest and one of the cheapest, a bottle of 10 ml should cost on average £6. The price of oils are fixed according to the quantity and weight of plants or fruits needed, their rarity and quality, for instance lavender is abundantly grown in France and England whereas rose costs more to grow and tons of petals are necessary to obtain a small quantity of oil. If you find a cheap bottle of rose oil it is more likely to be artificial or diluted.


To find a practitioner:

International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA)

20A The Mall
London W5 2PJ
Tel: 020 8567 2243
Fax: 020 8840 9288
Web: http://www.ifaroma.org/us/home/

International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists,

IFPA House
82 Ashby Road
Leicestershire LE10 1SN
Tel: 01455 637987
Fax: 01455 890956
Email: admin@ifparoma.org 
Web: www.ifparoma.org 


These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We haven't necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Valnet Jean. The practice of aromatherapy. ISBN: 0852071434
- Maury Marguerite. Guide to aromatherapy (The secret of life and youth). ISBN 0852071639
- Tisserand Robert. Aromatherapy: To heal and tend the body. ISBN: 0941524426
- Tisserand Maggie. Aromatherapy for Women (How to Use Essential Oils for Health, Beauty and Your Emotions) ISBN: 0722522606
- Worwood Valerie Ann. The complete book of essential oils and aromatherapy ISBN: 0931432820.
- Worwood Valerie Ann. Aromatherapy for the healthy child: more than 300 natural, non-toxic, and fragrant essential oil blends. ISBN: 1577310950
- Worwood Valerie Ann. The fragrant pharmacy. ISBN: 0553403974
- Price Shirley, Price Parr Penny. Aromatherapy for babies and children. ISBN: 0722531079

Other Information

A few oils and their properties:

  Lavender Rosemary Tea Tree Eucalyptus Geranium
Antiseptic Y Y Y Y Y
Antibiotic     Y Y  
Antibacterial Y Y Y Y  
Antiviral Y   Y Y  
Antifungal Y   Y Y  
Boosts immune system Y Y Y Y  
rheumatism, arthritis Y Y   Y  
Diarrhoea Y Y   Y Y
Constipation Y Y      
Indigestion Y   Y    
Gut fermentation   Y      
Gastro enteritis   Y Y   Y
Nausea Y        
Parasites Y Y Y Y Y
Strengthens liver   Y      
Ear conditions Y     Y  
Sore throat Y   Y Y Y
Nose Y     Y  
Asthma Y Y   Y  
Cough   Y   Y  
Bronchitis     Y Y  
Colds   Y Y Y  
Fever Y   Y Y  
Toothache     Y    
Mouth ulcers     Y   Y
Skin Stimulates cell growth   Stimulates cell growth    
Heals wounds Y Y   Y Y
Eczema Y       Y
Burns Y Y     Y
Acne Y   Y    
Insect bites Y   Y    
Athlete's foot     Y    
Diuretics Y Y   Y Y
Urinary infections Y     Y Y
Anti diabetes       Y Y
Relieves migraines, headaches Y Y   Y Y
Lower high blood pressure Y Y      
Regulates nervous system:          
Calming Y       Y
Palpitations Y        
Anti depressant Y Y     Y
Sedative (Promotes sleeps) Y       Y
Harmonises emotions         Y
Stimulates metabolism, reduces fatigue   Y      
Menopause         Y
Vertigo   Y      

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