Aromatherapy has shed its hippy-dippy stigma and gone mainstream. Beyond simply being pleasant, scents and plant oils—which can be concentrated into essential oils—have been studied for their powers as stress relievers and mood elevators, and for their genuine healing properties.
Although oils have been used for centuries for medicinal and psychological purposes, the term "aromatherapy" was coined by the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse in 1928. Gattefosse burned his arm and instinctively submerged the burn in the closest cool liquid—lavender essential oil. The burn healed quickly and without a scar, which piqued Gattefosse's interest in the capabilities of essential oils.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) provides a vast store of current information, including the Top 10 Essential Oils and information about using essential oils safely. There are a slew of products on the market to relax you at night or energize you in the morning, stimulate your mind, or calm your nerves. It's simply a matter of matching your needs to the available scents, oils, and products. Here are a few places to start.
By the Book
The Practice of Aromatherapy: A Classic Compendium of Plant Medicines and Their Healing Properties, by Jean Valnet, M.D., is an oft-referenced work and valuable for novices and experts alike. It includes anecdotal evidence and medical case studies on the power of plant medicine. $16.95; available at www.naha.org
The Art of Shaving uses essential oils in almost all of its products, according to their curative properties. The shaving cream for normal to dry skin contains sandalwood essential oils to soothe parched skin. The line also offers lavender (normal to sensitive skin), lemon (normal to oily), and unscented (hypoallergenic) products. $13; www.theartofshaving.com
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
This tiny Aromatherapy Travel Kit includes six travel candles, two scented sachets, and 30 incense sticks with a holder. The kit is available in four variations: geranium and lemon; patchouli and ylang-ylang; chamomile and lavender; lavender and orange. $18; available at www.flight001.com