Aromatherapy and essential oils have been around for over 5000 years, with widespread use dating back to ancient civilisations like Egypt, India, China and Greece. 

Aromatherapy is derived from two words; aroma, which means fragrance or smell and therapy, which means treatment.  Aromatherapy uses essential oils as the main therapeutic agents.  Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted from flowers, barks, leaves, stems, roots and fruits by various methods, most commonly distillation and cold pressing.  

Essential oils have been found to be an important tool in maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit. Their versatility in use shows they are not only beneficial in assisting the physical body by providing relief from ailments such as respiratory conditions, headaches, sore joints and achy muscles, but they can also play a powerful role in regulating emotions. Certain states of moods and emotions can be obtained through the use of these oils, providing enhanced emotional wellness, relaxation and rejuvenation of the mind and body. 


The benefits of essential oils are vast and varied, including but not limited to:

  • Antibacterial; antimicrobial potential on Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria
  • Antiviral; assists against colds and flu
  • Anti-oxidant; promotes a healthy cellular life cycle through free radical scavenging properties
  • Anti-inflammatory; reduces pain from arthritis and headaches 
  • Antiseptic; treatment of burns, stings, cuts and grazes
  • Immune system stimulant; boosts immunity in acute and chronic conditions, as well as in preventative health
  • Skin conditions; improves acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis 
  • Hormone regulation; assists with controlling cortisol levels  
  • Memory and alertness enhancer; stimulates the brain and improves cognitive function
  • Mood elevation; relieves symptoms of depression and fatigue
  • Calm and relaxation; reduces anxiety and insomnia
  • Emotional and spiritual enhancer; assists in releasing anger, sadness and low self-worth and increases spiritual awareness

There are many ways you can incorporate essential oils into your life, such as diffusing, steam inhalation, topical application and massage.  Aromatic use of essential oils is the fastest route to the brain via the olfactory system (sense of smell). It takes just seconds for essential oils to reach the brain stem and only minutes to spread through the entire bloodstream. With topical application, essential oils are combined with a carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond or fractionated coconut oil. They are best applied to the pressure points on the wrists, behind the ears and on the soles of the feet. Absorption through the pores in the skin allows direct access to the bloodstream, with application on the soles of the feet only taking 30 seconds to enter. 


In general, essential oils are considered safe, with minimum adverse reactions. In some cases, they can cause minor skin irritation at the site of use. Citrus oils, in particular, can cause phototoxicity (sensitivity to the sun) and topical application should be avoided 12-18 hours prior to sun exposure. Correct storage of essential oils away from sunlight and heat is important, as contact sensitisation is more likely to occur due to oxidation if they are left in these conditions. Essential oils can change their chemical composition over time, so it is important not to store them for long periods. Discernment is always encouraged when using in children and ratio guidelines of essential oil to carrier oil should be adhered to. I do not recommend the ingestion of essential oils, as they are concentrated and powerful compounds. Ingestion should only ever occur under the strict guidance of a naturopath or medical practitioner. 


The benefits of these aromatic compounds are well documented and it is exciting to see that more and more people are turning towards the use of essential oils in their everyday lives. They come with minimal side effects and are a natural, low-tox, cost-effective option that can be utilised in preventative health and in acute and chronic conditions.

What are some of your favourite essential oils to use and how do you like to use them?