What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants to support and balance the mind, body, and spirit. It is used by patients with cancer mainly as a form of supportive care that may improve quality of life and reduce stress, anxiety, and nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Aromatherapy may be combined with other complementary treatments like massage therapy and acupuncture, as well as with standard treatments, for symptom management.
Essential oils (also known as volatile oils) are the basic materials of aromatherapy. They represent the fragrant essences found in many plants. These essences are made in special plant cells, often under the surface of leaves, bark, or peel, using energy from the sun and elements from the air, soil, and water. If the plant is crushed, the essence and its unique fragrance are released.
When essences are extracted from plants, they become essential oils. They may be distilled with steam and/or water, or mechanically pressed. Essential oils that are made by processes that modify their chemistry are not considered true essential oils.
There are many essential oils used in aromatherapy, including those from Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender, tea tree, lemon, ginger, cedarwood, and bergamot. Each plant's essential oil has a different chemical composition that affects how it smells, how it is absorbed, and how it is used by the body. Even the essential oils from varieties of the same plant species may have chemical compositions different from each other. The same applies to plants that are grown or harvested in different ways or locations.
Essential oils are very concentrated. For example, it takes about 220 lbs of lavender flowers to make about 1 pound of essential oil. Essential oils are volatile, evaporating quickly when they are exposed to open air.