Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils extracted from plants to treat illness and improve overall well-being. These essential oils are usually inhaled or applied to the skin. For example, they can be added to hot water and inhaled as steam or used in a bath or shower. They can also be added to various vegetable oils to create a massage lotion. Essential oils are very concentrated and can burn the skin if not properly diluted. Only a few drops are required for each treatment.

NOTE: Never ingest or swallow an undiluted essential oil unless it has been specially prepared for ingestion. Ingesting essential oils can lead to serious health complications.

Essential oils can be purchased at health food stores. However, an aromatherapist, herbalist or naturopath will work out a customized mixture of essential oils to treat specific concerns. People using aromatherapy may combine several different oils to create a combination that is more powerful than its individual components.

For HIV infection, aromatherapy may be used to relieve stress and fatigue or to address specific health concerns. For example, lavender oil is believed to counter stress and fatigue but is also used to treat skin irritations. Peppermint oil is thought to improve circulation and relieve tension headaches.

Aromatherapy relies on our sense of smell. Most people have experienced memories triggered by particular aromas, so it is not surprising that aromas can affect mood, stress level and sense of well-being. For this reason, a person’s experience with aromatherapy is highly individual. The emotional impact of different aromas varies from person to person. Although many people enjoy and benefit from aromatherapy, others do not.

People who are allergic to perfumes or other scents may also be allergic to aromatherapies and understandably wary about their use. Many essential oils can be toxic in large doses, and some people may be especially sensitive to their scents. This is particularly true for children and pregnant women, who should avoid certain essential oils altogether. Since substances heated for inhalation are spread through the air and rapidly taken into the body, it is important to consider the wishes of the people around you when you use aromatherapies.

If you plan to buy and mix essential oils without the guidance of an aromatherapist, herbalist or naturopath, you may wish to consult a book on the subject.