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Has anyone ever told you to take time to smell the roses? These days it's more than general advice. The latest craze in relaxation says your sense of smell may improve your life on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.

These are big claims, but those who practice aromatherapy swear by its effectiveness.

Consider this: everyone has had emotional responses, both pleasant and unpleasant, to certain scents. The idea behind aromatherapy is to find what scents make you feel good, and introduce those scents into your everyday life.

Aromatherapy depends on the essential oils of plants. Essential oils are highly concentrated, aromatic oils that are either distilled or pressed from the plant. Lavender, rosemary, and patchouli are considered good essential oils for beginners to try.

Some scents are often extracted using chemical solvents (rose and jasmine are common examples). The resulting oils are called absolutes and are not considered suitable for aromatherapy. Absolutes are suitable for scenting, soaps, candles and perfumes.

Experts recommend you read labels carefully and look for words like "100 percent pure and natural" when choosing an essential oil.

At home, you can use aromatherapy by evaporating essential oils into your personal space with a diffuser. Diffusers can be made of unglazed porous clay or ceramics. John MacNeill says he and his wife use a citrus oil in the diffuser in their home to freshen stale air.

Five to 10 drops of essential oil in your bath is another way to enjoy aromatherapy. Celina Xanthian says a couple drops of jasmine can uplift her spirits.

You can also inhale essential oils by applying a few drops to a handkerchief and holding it under your nose. Many stores also offer "aromatherapy necklaces" that allow you to take your favorite scent with you wherever you go. When needed, you simply open the bottle and breathe in.

Aromatherapy massage is also increasing in popularity through spas and health clubs. Enthusiasts say essential oils can be absorbed by the skin with beneficial and wide-ranging effects.

Cultures around the world and throughout history have used aromatherapy of one sort or another. The early Egyptians burned incense. The healing effects of coriander, myrrh and sandalwood were known in ancient India.

In the 1920s, a French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, burned his hand in his lab and plunged it in the closest bowl of liquid, which happened to be lavender oil. The hand healed quickly and without scarring. Gattefosse coined the phrase aromatherapy.

Today, the aromatherapy market is growing at the rate of 30 percent a year, according to Cowboy Marketing in the U.S. The global aromatherapy market is anticipated to reach $2.35 billion by 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc.

This growth can be attributed to the increased awareness about the therapeutic benefits of essential oils.

Getting Started

Many aromatherapy shops offer starter kits for those wanting to get involved, or you can purchase individual oils. Prices range from $5 for a 4 ml bottle of lavender to $7 for a 4 ml bottle of patchouli. On the other end of the scale, a 4 ml bottle of chamomile German costs $28.

Xanthian has as many as 18 favorite essential oils on hand at any time. She says if you see jasmine for less than $50 an ounce, it's not real. Xanthian says the most expensive oils aren't always the best. "Don't go buy a $150 bottle of rose oil," she warns. "Geranium is a very good scent and it's inexpensive."

Learning more about aromatherapy can cost you a little or a lot. Books from the library are free. Evening courses on aromatherapy range from $30 to $200 but are a social way to learn more about this hobby.

Aromatherapy can open the door to a number of different jobs in retail, consulting and health services.

For example, John and Jackie MacNeill own Escents Aromatherapy Bath and Body Stores. "I don't see an end to it. New people come into it everyday," says John MacNeill.

Cheryl Cran set up a company called Escential Aromatics to advise hotels, medical laboratories, retail stores and sales offices how to use scent to create a pleasant (and profitable) atmosphere.

Aveda stores, based in Minneapolis, have incorporated personalized aroma blending, stress relieving treatments, mini-facials and lifestyle workshops into an international chain of stores. Artists and potters also have a niche in the aromatherapy market, designing necklaces and diffusers.

Post-graduate certification is also available for those who want to make a career of aromatherapy massage and consultation.

Enthusiasts say the best part of aromatherapy is that anyone can do it. Even if you don't have a pronounced sense of smell, the chemical reactions with your brain can create a feeling of well-being.


National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

International Federation of Aromatherapists


Field of Practice
Explore sweet-smelling career opportunities!

Organic Facts
Learn the many health benefits of aromatherapy

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