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Aromatherapy uses the natural healing properties of oils, which are extracted from plants, to improve health and prevent illness.

Aromatherapy oils can be applied to the body in different ways:

Different oils affect the body in different ways. For instance, they can be calming, relaxing, uplifting or energising. Some oils also have properties which fight infections. Tea tree oil, for example, can be used as an antiseptic or to relieve fungal infections such as thrush.

What is aromatherapy commonly used for?

Aromatherapy can be used for a wide range of problems, including:

Aromatherapists usually advise having a course of treatment, so that the benefits build up over time.

What will happen when I see an aromatherapist?

A session normally lasts for 60 to 90 minutes. The aromatherapist will ask questions about your medical history, general health and lifestyle. S/he will then choose a blend of oils specifically for your needs. The oils are concentrated, so for treatment they are diluted with vegetable-based oil.

The practitioner will then massage the blend into your body using a full-body massage, while you lie on a therapy couch and relax. Our massage page will tell you more about how massage is practised.

The practitioner may also suggest ways in which you can use aromatherapy at home, such as in the bath, or by using an oil burner, and will recommend which oils are best for your present condition.


Aromatherapy oils can be dangerous if not used properly. They must only be used externally (on the body), or inhaled. They must always be diluted in neutral oil. Your aromatherapist will explain this clearly to you if you are advised to use aromatherapy oils at home.

Essential oils must never be drunk, as they can be poisonous if swallowed.
When using essential oils at home, avoid application to damaged skin, such as burns or dermatitis.
Sunbathing after using certain oils can cause patches on the skin.
Make sure you tell your practitioner if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, epilepsy, or a skin irritation, as some aromatherapy oils should be avoided for people with these conditions. Also, there may be interactions between aromatherapy oils and homeopathic remedies, so tell your aromatherapist if you are also seeing a homeopath.
Pregnant women are advised to consult an aromatherapist before using any essential oils.

This information in taken from Complementary Healthcare: a guide for patients, consultation draft, The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health, March 2004, and reproduced with kind permission.

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