Aromatherapy for the Whole Family

In the 1920's, French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse accidentally lit his arm on fire in his laboratory. The nearest cold liquid was a vat of lavender oil, into which he thrust his arm in an act of desperation. To his surprise, the pain subsided within a few minutes and the burn healed quickly without a scar. Gattefosse spent the rest of his life researching the healing properties of essential oils, and the science of aromatherapy was born.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants and aromatic plant compounds to affect someone's mood or health. Besides affecting the limbic system, or the emotion centers of the brain, essential oils are also thought to have antiseptic and immune-system-enhancing properties, and can be a complement to conventional medicine. There are many methods of using aromatherapy to enhance health and wellness, including massage, baths, steam inhalation, and room diffusion.

In France, where it was discovered, aromatherapy has been incorporated into conventional medicine to treat infections and disease. In the U.S., it is widely used for its ability to affect a person's emotional state. Although aromatherapy was discovered with an act of direct skin application, in most cases, essential oils are too strong to be applied directly to the skin without first being diluted in a carrier oil, such as jojoba, or almond oil.

Here are some ways you can use aromatherapy to create a healthier home.

In the Bath
Try this bath before bed to help you or your kids sleep more soundly. Dilute five drops of lavender oil in one tablespoon of carrier oil, such as almond or coconut oil. Add to the bathwater, using caution to avoid slipping. Lavender helps promote relaxation and sleep.

Into a basin of steaming water, add a few drops of an essential oil, like marjoram. Lean your head over the bowl and cover with a towel, and inhale the steam for 10 minutes. Marjoram can help to clear congestion.

In the Car
Sprinkle a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball, and stash it under the driver's seat. Peppermint helps increase alertness.

Around the House
Help to disinfect the air in your home by adding a few drops of tea tree oil to an aromatherapy diffuser.

For your Pets
Calm rambunctious or nervous pets by sprinkling a drop or two of lavender oil on their bedding.

Although aromatherapy can complement traditional medicine, it should never be used as a substitute. Always check with your doctor or pediatrician before using any home remedies on yourself or your child.