Best Scents

New research shows your sense of smell can lift your spirits, make you feel sexy -- even help you lose weight.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | May 2005

Aromatherapy: Does it Work?

Modern aromatherapy, introduced in France in 1928, relies on scented oils (sometimes with massage) to help you feel better, physically and emotionally. Certain oils are designated for certain problems: lavender for relaxation and restful sleep, vanilla to reduce anxiety, chamomile to soothe, rosemary and the citrusy tang of lemon and orange for alertness.

If you want proof that aromatherapy delivers on its promises, you won’t find much. Some scientists draw a line between aromatherapy and “aromachology,” a new name for the scientific study of odors’ effects on mood, emotion and behavior. But what they’ve learned so far seems to confirm some of the claims for aromatherapy:

  • Lavender is relaxing, can boost your mood and may improve the quality of sleep, particularly for women.
  • Heliotropin, a vanilla-like scent, relaxes anxious patients undergoing MRIs.
  • Lemon-balm oil dabbed on the faces and arms of elderly nursing-home patients with dementia can be calming.
  • Rosemary can perk you up and reduce anxiety.

So is aromatherapy worth trying? Sure, if you would enjoy a fragrant massage. (Make sure the aromatherapist is well trained; used improperly, the oils can cause burns, allergic reactions, headaches, nausea, and can aggravate asthma.) The bottom line? If it works for you, it works.

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