A form of alternative medicine based on the use of very concentrated "essential" oils from the flowers, leaves, bark, branches, rind or roots of plants with purported healing properties. In aromatherapy these potent oils are mixed with a carrier (usually soybean or almond oil) or the oils are diluted with alcohol or water and rubbed on the skin, sprayed in the air, inhaled or applied as a compress. They should never be consumed. Practitioners of aromatherapy believe that the aroma of these "essential" oils directly stimulates the brain or that the oils are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream, where they can affect the whole body and promote healing. Some scents like lavender may, indeed, have real effects that promote a sense of well-being. However, aromatherapy has been claimed to be a virtual panacea: to boost immunity fight bacteria, cure herpes and shingles, relieve arthritis, heal wounds, improve memory, lift depression, improve the circulation, etc. Such claims are generally not supported by convincing scientific evidence.

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aro·ma·ther·a·py ə-.rō-mə-'ther-ə-pē n, pl -pies massage of the body and esp. of the face with a preparation of fragrant essential oils extracted from herbs, flowers, and fruits broadly the use of aroma to enhance a feeling of well-being
aro·ma·ther·a·pist -pəst n

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aro·ma·ther·a·py (ə-roґmə-ther″ə-pe) the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants by steam distillation or expression; they may be used by inhalation, introduced internally (orally, rectally, or intravaginally), or applied topically by means of compresses, baths, or massage.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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