Smell is a very powerful sense that can work with your memory. Certain smells remind you of events, people and places. In addition to this, the smell can also take you back to how you felt about what you're remembering. It activates your emotional memory.

Aromatherapy uses warm essential oils to activate your sense of smell and increase your sense of well-being. The oils are massaged into your skin, dropped into water for you to bathe in, or blended with other oils or steam for you to inhale.

The essential oils used in aromatherapy are powerful and are extracted from plants, shrubs, flowers, bark, peel, resin, grasses, fruits, roots, trees, petails, stems or seeds. Only a small amount of essential oil is needed, and is blended with a larger amount of another "carrier" oil - such as grape seed oil and used on the skin.

The perceived healing power of essential oils is the main attraction of aromatherapy. But it is also the main question for the skeptic. There is not much qualitative evidence for the claims made by aromatherapists regarding the healing properties of oils, but many people do swear by it. Claims of aromatherapy enhancing emotional, physical or spiritual health cannot be tested scientifically, but of course many people do give anecdotal evidence for improvements in these areas.

What is aromatherapy good for?

Aromatherapy works on the basis that the smell of the essential oils trigger the limbic system - the part of the brain that seems to be linked with emotion. This is why it can affect how you feel, and help you relax. Massage helps your skin to absorb warmed essential oils; these oils improve the effectiveness of the massage in treating specific physical problems.

Aromatherapy is used in a number of ways, including:

  • relieving stress and anxiety; it is used with older people with dementia to relieve distress
  • helping you to sleep better; whether you have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • helping you relax
  • relieving tiredness or aching muscles
  • improving flexibility
  • soothing chronic pain
  • improving skin tone
  • aiding concentration
  • calming bad temper

Aromatherapy massage can have short-term benefits on psychological well-being and a positive effect in reducing anxiety