The name "aromatherapy" taken literally means, of course, therapy via aroma/scent. The sense of smell is a very powerful one - it can instantaneously bring alive memories from many years ago, both good and not so good, and thus can tap into the very powerful emotions that are generated within us. The sense of smell is one of the most primitive, and goes directly to our "memory bank" known as the limbic system.
This very direct action impacts on our senses such that the scents can cause positive emotional responses, such as uplifting, relaxing, de-stressing etc and may induce healing.
Apart from all the commercialised products that use the name aromatherapy, we normally associate the term "aromatherapy" with a lovely massage using natural oils that will make us feel good, help relieve the pain of sore muscles, shattered emotions, stress relief and general relaxation. It is, of course, much more than that!
A more clinical approach is the use of esssential oils that are specially selected to help with your particular issues. They may help people who have disorders/imbalances such as depleted immune system, hormonal imbalance (including hot flushes), muscular pain, skin disorders, haemorroids, respiratory illness (coughs, colds, sinuses) etc.
The oils can be used very effectively in first aid e.g. wound cleansing & healing, burns, insect bites/stings etc.
Essential oils may be used in many more ways than massage - creams, ointments, oils, compresses, baths (from total body to just a foot bath) and inhalants, and can have a subtle or powerful affect on the body.
Who can have Aromatherapy? The oils prepared by aromatherapists are always chosen after taking a medical history, to rule out the use of any oils that may be unsafe to use with specific medical conditions and allergies, or where other treatments are being undertaken. In general, essential oils are not given to women during the first 3 months of pregnancy but thereafter certain safe oils may be used. Essential oils are also not given to very young babies, and only in very low concentrations after 6 months or so.