Over the years I heard many times the word “aromatherapy”. However, I associated this word with “flower power” and the hippie culture of the 60s, and did not pay much attention. I guess I was missing something important, that now is becoming very popular and for a good reason.
We see many advertisements for “essential oils”, which are the foundation for aromatherapy, and we see many articles written to discuss the health benefits of “Aromatherapy”. Here I present my findings on Aromatherapy for Seniors.
Aromatherapy in the Ancient World
Although scientists have researched essential oils only since the beginning of this century, the use of aromas and plants for their healing powers have strong historical roots.
In India The Reg Veda, written more than 5000 years ago, describes the healing power of herbs. That knowledge evolved in India into the healing art of Ayurveda, which is still practiced today. In China essential oils of Rose, Jasmine and Chamomile were used as tonics.
Egyptians used some of the oldest known oils such as Myrrh, Juniper, Aniseed and Cedar.
In ancient Greece Hippocrates recommended aromatic baths with Marjoram and Myrrh.
I have to confess I always have been a skeptic of any healing remedy that did not have the endorsement of modern medicine. However, natural remedies have been the only remedies available for centuries and they obviously were of great value at the time. Even in “modern” times, before sulfa and antibiotics were developed, natural remedies were very important. They deserve our respect.
What the Scientists say about Aromatherapy
Scientists have researched essential oils since the beginning of this century. Rene-Maurice Gattefosse analyzed the chemical composition of essential oils and wrote “Aromatherapy”, the first book on the pharmacology of essential oils, in 1910. Since then numerous studies have confirmed the healing properties of some essential oils. Aromatherapy implies a health related therapy, not to be confused with aromatic oils used in the cosmetic industry.
An article published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reports that in a study of geriatric patients, exposed to samples of essential oils of Lavender, Grapefruit and Peppermint, the patients reported an increase of satisfaction with their care and welcomed the aromatherapy. Increase of well-being was universally reported.
A recent study, in 2018, reported that older people suffering from insomnia were greatly helped by inhaling a combination of lavender, marjoram and basil essential oils. The results show that applying aromatherapy contributes to a reduction in the intensity of insomnia and also that all subjects reported a significantly better quality of sleep.
Experts think that aromatherapy activates smell receptors in the nose which send messages through the nervous system to the brain. The brain areas involved include the hypothalamus which may respond by releasing serotonin that eases stress and provides a feeling of relaxation.
Common Essential Oils and their Benefits
The most common essential oils used in Aromatherapy and their benefits are listed below: 
ESSENTIAL OIL REPORTED BENEFITS
Basil Sharpens concentration. Helps with depression symptoms
Jasmine Enhances alertness. Possible aphrodisiac
Black Pepper Stimulates blood circulation. Relieves muscle pains and aches
Rosemary Supports circulatory and nervous systems. Boosts memory
Thyme Reduces fatigue and stress
Lemon Relieves symptoms of stress and depression
Clove Topical analgesic, commonly used for toothache
Eucalyptus Relieves airways during a cold or influenza
Lavender Improves relaxation and sleep.Relieves headaches
Aromatherapy is now in the mainstream and an accepted complement to modern medicine.
Words of Caution
Although aromatherapy can be applied through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion, inhalation should be the preferred method. Inhalation acts immediately on the nose receptors connecting to the brain, and provides nasal de-congestion and a pleasant smell. Aromatherapy can be applied through skin contact, typically in conjunction with massage. In this case it is advisable to test first for allergic reactions by applying the diluted essential oil on a small skin section and observe if there is a reaction. Ingestion of essential oils is not recommended as it may damage the liver or kidneys. Furthermore, if you are taking medications consult with your Doctor to ensure that there are no adverse interactions with your medications.
Aromatherapy is intended to be a complementary treatment that can have health benefits such as stress reduction, ease some side effects of medications and help improve quality of life for people suffering from anxiety, depression or insomnia. It is a complementary treatment not intended to replace conventional medicine.
We have discussed here Aromatherapy, utilizing essential oils obtained from distillation. Not to be confused with oils extracted chemically and used in cosmetics.
Aromatherapy is another method to enhance our well-being, improve our quality of life and joy of living. It is very pleasant and it might be of help. Why not try it?
 Monika Michalak,2018. “Aromatherapy and methods of applying essential oils”, Department of Dermatology and Cosmetology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, Poland. Arch Psysiother Glob Res 2018;22 (2):25-31
 Kecia-Ann Blissett, et al. 2018 “From Stress to Serenity: The Use of Aromatherapy to Engage Patients in Care”. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018 AAGP Annual Meeting. Post Number: EI 54
 Zrinka Jezdic, et al. 2018. “Influence of Aromatherapy on Alleviation of Insomnia Symptoms”. Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Open Access, Volume 2018, Issue 02
 ” Aromatherapy & Essential Oils for relaxation and Stress Relief”,2018 https:// www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/aromatherapy-overview
 Christian Nordqvist,2017. “Aromatherapy:What you need to know” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/10884.php