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Releasing the wonders of aromatherapy

Candle stores, perfume boutiques, incense shops—your nose can get quite a workout these days, can’t it?

Actually, the aromatherapy trend isn’t all that new. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans believed herbs, spices and fragrant oils could aid circulation and promote wound healing. Although modern researchers are still studying aromatherapy’s healing effects, there’s no denying scents’ power to soothe.

Think about the smell of warm oatmeal cookies fresh from the oven. Takes you back to your childhood, doesn’t it? The same idea holds true for scents like “first rain,” “holiday spice” and “fresh bouquet.” Candles, incense and “essential oils” use these scents to evoke a sense of place that is calm, peaceful and relaxing.

You may have seen essential oils in a store. They are small glass vials of liquid with names like cedarwood or juniper. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from plants, herbs and flowers. While some are said to be good for ailments like nausea (peppermint), indigestion (tangerine) and insomnia (lavender), in most cases aromatherapy oils are best used to achieve relaxation. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add a few drops to rejuvenate potpourri or dried flowers.
  • Mix some oil with water in a spray bottle and create your own air freshener.
  • Buy a clay diffuser that absorbs the oil and releases small amounts of scent into the air. Some are designed to rest on top of a lamp, where the heat from the light bulb triggers the release of the scent. (Note: Never place the oil directly on the bulb.)

Caution, please

Essential oils and other aromatherapy items should never be taken internally. Oils can aggravate asthma, epilepsy and other medical conditions. Because they may be toxic to developing fetuses and infants, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid applying essential oils.