Aromatherapy literally means the therapeutic use of scents to change moods. Practitioners use essential oils distilled from plants, flowers, trees, bark, grasses, seeds, and fruits to treat a variety of ailments including fatigue, tension, stress, and, most importantly here, pain. When inhaled, aromas work on the brain and central nervous system through the olfactory (smelling) nerves. The brain’s limbic system is stimulated when cells in the upper nose are exposed to odors contained in the essential aromatherapy oils. It is the same principle as when your hunger starts just as you sniff the wafting aroma of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. Aromatherapy has been used by ancient cultures for at least 6,000 years. The ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks all used aromatherapy. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used aromatherapy to rid Athens of the plague. Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian healer, recommended essential oils be used in massage, baths, and embalming of the dead. Aromatherapy is one of the oldest forms of CAM. It is also one of the fastest-growing natural remedies being used today. It works by awakening and strengthening the self-healing ability of the body. Smells can have a profound effect on your sense of well-being and body balance. Practitioners say the essential oils used in aromatherapy are antiseptic, antidepressant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory detoxifying, expectorant, and analgesic. Because essential oils are extremely concentrated, most oils require being diluted with carrier oils such as almond or grape seed oil prior to application. There are about 150 essential oils and they can be applied directly to the skin through massage (diluted as mentioned above). A few drops of these oils also can be inhaled when placed in a bowl of warm water or in a bath, a humidifier, a diffusion device, or melted candle wax. Significant research studies have proven the therapeutic effects of aromatherapy when used to treat women after childbirth, elderly patients who suffer from insomnia, and patients who are under a great deal of stress. Some uses of the healing properties of essential oils include lavender and lemongrass oil in the treatment of pain; chamomile, juniper, and tea tree oil to treat pain through their anti-inflammatory properties; orange, tangerine, geranium, and sage to treat high blood pressure; eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, tea tree, and basil to treat cuts and wounds; bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, rose, and sandalwood to help promote sleep; and bergamot, chamomile, rose, and valerian oil to help relieve stress. Aromatherapy can be used to treat almost any condition that would be improved by stimulation, calming, or balancing and is often used in combination with other methods mentioned here. This blog post is an excerpt from A Day Without Pain (Revised) by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).