Scents are very effective at evoking memories. They may have other psychological and physical effects as well. The practice or aromatherapy capitalizes on this premise, using various odors to achieve different goals, such as relaxation, contentedness, stress reduction or pain relief. Whether diffused into the air or delivered through massage oils, body lotions, bath oils or salts, essential oils emit fragrances that can have distinct psychological effects. When absorbed into the body through the skin or mucous membranes in the nasal passages, these substances can have physical effects too.
On its website, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy lists the top 10 essential oils and their effects, ranging from peppermint for digestive complaints, muscle aches and headaches, to rosemary for mental stimulation and immune system support. Eucalyptus can be used to treat respiratory ailments, and lemon and lavender are considered useful for treating burns and wounds, as well as being relaxing and uplifting. Lemon has the added benefit of being a useful household cleaning product. Tea tree oil is reputed to have antifungal properties, and chamomile is said to promote relaxation and restful sleep and reduce anxiety.
Many people consider aromatherapy to be a safe, noninvasive alternative or complementary treatment for various psychological and physical ailments. Valid research on the effectiveness of the practice is limited; however, the Mayo Clinic reports that studies have shown some potential benefits, such as relieving anxiety and depression and improving the quality of life for people with chronic health problems.