What is it?

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of scented essential oils. You can inhale the oils, use them in the bath or massage them into your skin. When you use them for massage they’re diluted in a carrier oil.

Many different oils can be used. If you have back pain, for instance, an aromatherapist might select lavender or marjoram to relieve muscle spasm, or ginger if you have a circulatory problem. Other oils such as rosemary or peppermint are thought to have stimulating properties.

Is it safe?

The oils are very concentrated and should never be applied to the skin undiluted. They may be harmful in large quantities, particularly if you’re pregnant.

In practice aromatherapy is very safe, apart from occasional allergic reactions.

There’s little evidence that aromatherapy is effective for arthritis, although there’s some evidence that it’s beneficial in other painful conditions and helpful with anxiety. Many people with chronic pain report that an aromatherapy massage gives relief for several weeks.