If you have ever been treated to a massage with spotted oil, you may have been treated with aromatherapy, fragrant essential oils that come directly from plants and are used to promote well-being and healing. Advocates of aromatherapy market their products as being a helpful complementary treatment for chronic pain, stress, depression, anxiety and insomnia. Some essential oils have antibacterial effects when they are applied directly to your skin. Oils made with a chemical process are not considered true.

The treatment works because your nose is a sensational instrument. When aromas enter your nasal cavity the scent receptors in your nose send chemical messages directly to your brain at the limbic system. It is the limbic system that effects your heart rate, your blood pressure, respiration and many emotional responses.

Over 40 oils from plants are commonly used in aromatherapy, each with its own purpose. For instance, lavender is used for calming. Other popular oils include lemon, chamomile, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree. On the other hand, fragrance oils are not the same because they contain synthetic chemicals and do not provide the therapeutic benefits of essential oils say the experts.

The practice of using plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being goes back 2000 years or more. The therapy works when the oils are inhaled which stimulates the brain to trigger a reaction. Inhaling into the lungs can also result in the natural constituents supplying a therapeutic benefit such as eucalyptus essential oil easing congestion.

Essential oils applied to the skin can also be absorbed into the blood stream. The rule of thumb is that if they are too concentrated to be applied directly to the skin they must be diluted.

The US does not regulate the use of the word aromatherapy on product packaging, labeling or in advertising so that just about any product can be listed as suitable. Some products on the market contain unnatural ingredients including fragrance oils and do not provide therapeutic benefits. Make sure you look at the label before purchasing.

When used as directed essential oils have few side effects. However, as with most of life, use aromatherapy in moderation.

Do not swallow essential oils; they can be toxic if taken by mouth.

Dilute the oils before you apply them to your skin. Some oils may cause irritation. If a rash takes place, discontinue use.

If you have asthma, talk to your doctor first. Some oils can trigger bronchial spasm.

Keep oils away from your eyes.

Lavender and tea tree oils have been found to have some hormone-like effects. Used over time they may cause breast enlargement in boys who have not reached puberty.

Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy.

Essential oils are flammable. Keep them away from fire hazards.

And finally be selective of where you purchase your essential oils. The quality of essential oils varies widely from company to company.