Some forms of alternative healing have shown positive results in scientific testing. One such form is aromatherapy, or the practice of using healing scents. While many understand the joy of a pleasant scent, a relative few have experienced the full potential of healing scents. Aromatherapy uses a variety of pure essential oils to treat the symptoms of a variety of diseases, simply by having the patient inhale the healing scents.
It is not the smell alone that makes healing scents useful for treating both psychological and physical complaints. Plant essential oils, absolutes and hydrosols are all extracted-scent products that release volatile compounds into the air. When these volatile compounds are inhaled, they produce a number of effects in the body. This is why it is important to use pure plant extracts and not fragrance or perfume oils, which can release artificial volatile compounds that irritate the nose and lungs.
Most aromatherapy blends are inhaled indirectly. Aromatherapy sessions often include oil warmers and diffusers that release the oil's smell into the air of a room, or scented massage oils that surround the patient with the correct scent. Many essential oils and absolutes are irritating, even caustic, when applied to the skin, so aromatherapists must be well trained. Practitioners who wish to use healing smells as part of their alternative medicine practice should be educated and certified through the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy in the U.S. or by a similar organization in the practitioner's country of residence.
Direct inhalation of oils is generally only used for treating sinus and lung problems. Inhaling the healing scents of eucalyptus or peppermint causes the bronchial tubes to open up and can relieve congestion. One of the most common uses of aromatherapy in the United States and Europe comes in the form of scented oil blends used during massage therapy. Some massage therapists have picked up aromatherapy training and skills to help make their treatments more pleasant and effective.
Aromatherapy generally does not cure a disease or condition alone, but it does help support the body as it heals itself. This is why most healing scents are used in conjunction with other alternative medicine techniques or even modern Western medical procedures. Inhaling the right essential oil can help relieve stress, reduce pain and enhance energy levels. Lower stress levels and improved energy help a patient keep his immune system working properly and help the body recover from an illness or surgery.