What is Aromatherapy?

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Aromatherapy uses oils from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of certain plants to help boost a person’s mood or make them feel better. These are called essential oils. Aromatherapy can help your child feel better when they are sick or hurt and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. Each oil works in different ways.

How does aromatherapy work?

Some experts believe that aromatherapy works because tiny particles of the essential oil “turn on” smell receptors in the nose. Once these receptors are turned on, they send signals to the brain. The brain sends messages to areas of the nervous system that control mood and perception of symptoms such as pain and anxiety.

What conditions can be treated by aromatherapy?

Different essential oils have different chemical properties. Some help with relaxation and decreasing stress and others may support a positive mood and increase digestive comfort.

Is aromatherapy safe?

It is important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils with your child. According to the National Institute of Health’s Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, essential oils have few harmful side effects. They can make some conditions or illnesses worse. Some essential oils can react with certain medications.

When essential oils are placed directly on the skin, they can cause irritation. It is very important to mix (dilute) essential oils in oil or lotion before applying them to the skin.

To use essential oils safely:

  • Only buy pure essential oils that include:
    • The Latin name of the oil
    • The part of the plant it came from
    • How it was obtained (steam, distilled or cold pressed)
    • What country it came from
  • Keep essential oils away from the eyes.
  • Keep oils away from fire or flame.
  • Do not allow your child to swallow essential oils.

People with certain health conditions should not use or handle essential oils until they check with their healthcare provider. Some of these conditions include:

  • Lung conditions such as asthma
  • Allergies
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizure disorder
  • Heart conditions and high blood pressure
  • Certain types of cancer

How is aromatherapy performed?

Aromatherapy can be used in different ways.

  • Pre-filled sniffer (inhaler): Allows your child to breathe in essential oils through their nose.
  • Room diffuser: A diffuser is a machine that releases particles of the essential oil throughout a room, similar to a vaporizer. It should only run 30 minutes or less at a time.
  • Essential oils can be mixed with oil or lotion then massaged into the skin.
  • Sometimes essential oils are placed into bath water but they should be properly diluted first in either Epsom salts, baking soda or vegetable glycerin. (Sold at health food stores)

Essential oils should never be swallowed or taken internally.

How often can we use aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy by inhalation can be used as often as needed and tolerated. If you are using other methods of application of the oils, it is important to follow instructions from a professional and always dilute the oils before applying to the skin.

Does aromatherapy take the place of traditional medicine?

Aromatherapy is not a substitute for medical care provided by a healthcare professional.

Please talk to your health care provider if you would like to learn more about aromatherapy. Our staff can help you decide if aromatherapy might be a helpful addition to your child’s care plan.

Additional resources

November 2022