Aromatherapy is exactly what the word implies: using plant and floral fragrances to heal and refresh the body and mind. Every plant, flower, or herb has an aromatic essence that determines its unique smell or taste. Working through our sense of smell, these essences trigger the brain to release chemicals that reduce pain and relax and calm the body.
Aromatherapy is not a new concept. Anthropologists believe that primitive man used scented flowers and herbs for both ceremony and pleasure. Ancient Egyptians added the essence of chamomile in massage oils, and Greek athletes sprinkled themselves with scented nectar to enhance athletic performance. Cleopatra used pillows filled with rose petals to induce sleep. The Romans added lavender into their baths to soothe muscles and relax the spirit, and African tribes people coated their skin with fragrant oils to protect them from the sun.
Floral fragrances can dramatically enhance our moods and health. Lavender flowers and roses are known for their calming effect. Strongly-scented flowers such as the lily, rose, lilac and sweet-pea are known to invoke feelings of romance. The fragrance of the ylang ylang tree's yellow flower is so captivating that Indonesians place it on newlyweds' beds!
Floral fragrances also improve learning and productivity. In 1995, a study at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation showed that aromatic essences - especially floral scents - increased learning speed by 17 per cent. Similarly, office workers work much faster in offices filled with fragrant flowers than in odorless environments.
Using fragrance to enhance the home has occurred throughout history. The Bible notes the frequent use of frankincense, and potpourri is often mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. To perfume the air of banquet halls, ancient Greeks and Romans sprinkled doves' wings with scented oils before releasing them into the room.
Today, relaxing music and soft fragrances are combined to make a home more inviting. A home's scent is particularly important to potential buyers, for it can make or break a buyer's interest. Placing fragrant bouquets or mild potpourri in selected rooms before an open house often results in a faster sale.