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The Power of Essential Oils (They're Not Just Another Term for Aromatherapy)


Vials of essential oils with flowers sticking out used for aromatherapy

The differences between essential oils and aromatherapy


Essential oils are often used in conjunction with aromatherapy but that's only one aspect of their healing power. Aromatherapy and essential oils as terms often overlap on the internet but they are not one and the same. We explain how aromatherapy works, the role of essential oils in it, and how essential oils can be used for healing purposes other than aromatherapy.


Key takeaways:

  • Essential oils and aromatherapy are often used as interchangeable concepts but essential oils have properties way beyond aromatherapy, such as boosting immunity, uplifting the mood, healing skin inflammations, and repelling insects.

  • Aromatherapy is a practice that uses aromatic essential oils to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit.

  • Aromatherapy is used to reduce stress and ease anxiety among other benefits.

  • Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that retain their natural scent.

  • Essential oils are powerful and are usually mixed with a carrier oil in aromatherapy when used topically.

  • In aromatherapy, essential oils can be inhaled or applied topically to the skin.

  • The scent of essential oils can have powerful effects on our mental and emotional well-being.

What is aromatherapy?


Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that involves the use of aromatic essential oils to improve the health of the mind, body, and spirit. It has been around for centuries, dating back to ancient cultures in Egypt, China, and India. In fact, massage with essential oils is a principle of Ayurvedic medicine.


Aromatherapy is used to reduce stress, ease anxiety and depression, treat headaches, and migraines, boost energy, and fight fatigue. Scent can have a powerful effect on our mental health and emotional state.


What are essential oils?


Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts obtained through distillation or mechanical methods such as cold pressing. The extracts retain the aroma of the plant they were sourced from. Once the extract is obtained, it’s combined with a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba, or argan oil. Extracted essential oils are highly concentrated and require a carrier oil to dilute them.


How to use essential oils in aromatherapy


Essential oils are integral to aromatherapy. They’re the base upon which the practice is built.


They can be inhaled or applied topically to the skin during aromatherapy. When inhaled, the scent stimulates the olfactory nerves and travels to the brain where it positively affects us physically and emotionally. Certain scents have different effects. For example, one might inhale peppermint or lemon for a quick boost of energy whereas lavender and chamomile are typically used for relaxation or preparing for sleep.


Ways to use essential oils for inhalation:

  • Aromatherapy necklace, bracelet, or keychain – Accessories like these absorb the essential oil so you can get a whiff as often as you’d like throughout the day.

  • Essential oil diffuser – Creates scented vapor that can fill a room or household.

  • Palm inhalation – Tap one drop of an essential oil into the palm of your hand, rub your palms together, cup over your nose, and inhale deeply. You can also add a couple drops to a tissue and inhale.

  • Room spray – Spray more for a concentrated scent and less for a lighter scent.

  • Aromatic bath – Use bath salts made with essential oils or simply add a few drops to warm water.

Essential oils may also be applied topically to the skin in aromatherapy. A good-quality, plant-based, non-toxic essential oil is necessary to avoid reactions.


Ways to use essential oils topically:

  • Massage oil – This is a popular way to apply essential oils topically.