The use of essential oils (the oils that give plants their characteristic scents) that have been extracted from flowers, herbs, and trees, to promote health and well-being. Essential oils are most often inhaled or applied to the skin. These oils have been used for thousands of years to treat such problems as insomnia, depression, slow-healing wounds, and infections.
There is some evidence that placing a few drops of lavender in 2–3 cups of very hot water and inhaling the vapors can help alleviate insomnia and improve a person’s mood. And there is some indication that lemon, lemongrass, jasmine, peppermint, and basil—used in the same way as lavender or prepared as a tea—are stimulating, while bergamot, chamomile, and sandalwood are relaxing.
There is scant evidence that aromatherapy can alleviate specific medical conditions, but its use is generally considered safe, as long as it isn’t being used in place of conventional medical interventions.