The first thought that generally comes to mind when one hears the word "fragrance" is a fragrance in the form of a perfume or cologne. While perfume and cologne are fragrances that are considered luxury cosmetic items, there are other fragrances that are used for numerous reasons. The most common type of fragrance other than perfume or cologne is essential oils. These fragrances are often used for medical purposes in the field of holistic or alternative medicine.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using fragrances to promote overall good health. The fragrances used in aromatherapy are derived from natural plants, flowers, tree barks, leaves, or even roots. They are then turned into one of several forms for use in aromatherapy, including essential oils, lotions, and inhalants. The specific type of fragrance that is used varies based on the desired effect. Each type of herb or plant is known for producing different effects. For instance, lavender is known for its relaxing properties. Because of this, those who are using aromatherapy for stress relief may choose to use lavender in any one of these forms to promote relaxation.
Throughout history, fragrance has been used as a way to delight the senses. Some of the first known uses of fragrances date back to the times of the ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians used fragrances in smoke during religious ceremonies. They believed that incorporating these scents within the smoke would allow them to effectively communicate with the gods. The term perfume, in fact, is derived from the Latin word "per fumum" meaning smoke. The ancient Egyptian people eventually began storing these fragrances in glass containers for cosmetic uses. It was also around this time that the Egyptians began incorporating fragrances and natural plants into ointments and other medical aids. The use of these fragrances and oils for medicinal purposes was only the beginning of aromatherapy.
It is a well-known fact that the scents surrounding a person can drastically affect their body and evoke physical and mental reactions. The smell of a delicious meal can induce hunger, while an unpleasant scent can evoke a feeling of nausea. Aromatherapy uses this power of scent to manipulate moods and physical reactions. Aromatherapy is often used to induce relaxation and eliminate stress from everyday life, however, it is also used frequently to treat and manage certain types of medical conditions. Aromatherapy is considered a holistic treatment method and its effectiveness in truly treating medical conditions is often disputed between those in the fields of alternative and traditional medicines. There is some evidence, however, that shows the use of aromatherapy can improve the overall quality of life for those who are suffering from various medical conditions.