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What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy can be defined as the ancient art and science of blending naturally extracted essential oils from aromatic plants, to balance, harmonise and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. Essential oils can only be extracted from aromatic plants, including flowers, leaves, roots, resins, seeds and fruit, with each essential oil having its own unique healing properties.

Aromatherapy comes from the word's “aroma” fragrance and “therapy” treatment.  It was the French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who coined the term “aromatherapie” in 1937 with his publication of a book by that name. Gattefosse’s intention for coining the term was to distinguish the medicinal application of essential oils from their perfumery applications.

Aromatherapy aims to enhance well-being, relieve stress and help in the rejuvenation and regeneration of the human body. It has been used throughout history in various forms of traditional medical practices of the world's greatest civilisations. Nowadays, aromatherapy is widely accepted by orthodox and complementary practitioners as one of the most comprehensive of the natural therapies.

“The more you study aromatherapy, the more you realise there is to understand” Micheline Arcier

A Clinical Treatment

When you visit a clinical aromatherapist, there are several things you can expect. 


Before a treatment takes place, the aromatherapist will conduct a thorough consultation to establish the client’s medical history and any pre-existing conditions that the client may have to ensure a safe and effective treatment. Consideration will also be given to lifestyle, diet and the client’s general wellbeing and stress levels. All our clinical aromatherapists understand both the limitations and scope of their skills and would never claim to cure or diagnose a client’s medical condition. Rather, they look holistically at a client’s overall lifestyle and provide not only a deeply relaxing treatment, allowing the essential oils to permeate the skin and senses, but also provide sound guidance to use in everyday life to maintain optimum health. Consultations are entirely confidential. The information provided is important because each treatment is individual and tailored to suit your particular needs. IFA trained clinical aromatherapists use essential oils to address symptoms but would also try to establish what the triggers were to those symptoms. They will then create a bespoke blend tailored for your specific physical and emotional needs and devise a personalised treatment plan.

If you are currently receiving treatment for a serious illness or if there are concerns about your current state of health, you will be advised to consult your doctor before embarking on a course of aromatherapy treatments. Following your consultation, you may be given feedback and advice on how to improve the quality of your health.

Essential Oil Selection

Essential oils are then selected for that individual person based on their current health needs (both physical and emotional), and taking into account any safety issues that may arise. Essential oils can be applied via the skin as massage when diluted in a vegetable oil; compresses applied directly to the affected area; bath milks, and inhalation – the molecules of the essential oils travel, via the olfactory system, quickly into the blood stream. In the UK essential oils are never taken internally, this is practiced by doctors in other countries in Europe who are specially trained in the use of essential oils as medicines.

Essential oils contain powerful chemicals which provides their therapeutic value, it is therefore important that they are used with care and are administered by a trained professional. There are a number of essential oils with well-known therapeutic qualities a therapist would choose from a selection of these oils to administer a treatment. If a condition is made worse with stress for example, then the therapist can use oils that will help to balance the nervous system.  There are numerous oils which can be used for this e.g. Geranium, Neroli, Sweet Orange, Melissa Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang and Vetiver, depending on how the stress is presenting in the individual.

The history of aromatherapy began in France and it is there that the recognition of the therapeutic chemicals in the essential oils was identified. Many people think aromatherapy is about lovely smells but the lovely fragrances are a bonus. The most important fact is that the oils used are of therapeutic grade i.e. they contain the actual chemicals that define the therapeutic quality of the essential oil. Essential oils are very expensive and therefore there are some products on the market that are adulterated with cheaper oils e.g. Rose is often mixed with Geranium, Lavender officinalis with Lavendin.  A qualified aromatherapist knows how to identify good quality oil and uses only professional and reputable suppliers. 

Bespoke Blend

The synergy of the blend of oils is also important, as oils must complement each other chemically for them to enhance the therapeutic effect. Whilst there are a number of oils to treat many minor conditions when applied with massage, the actual choice is based on the individual’s needs – there age, general state of health, lifestyle etc.  Although essential oils are most definitely natural they are not always gentle and each person’s degree of sensitivity is individual which can vary from time to time depending on what is happening in their lives.

Treatment Plan

The aromatherapist will work with your schedule and budget to create a treatment plan to suit your particular requirements. 

Method of application

Usually a full body massage is carried out covering the legs, back/neck, abdomen, arms, face and scalp. Two different blends are used, one for the face and one for the body. A classic full body aromatherapy massage routine begins with the back, arms, shoulders and neck, followed by the backs of the legs and the feet. Having helped you to turn, the therapist washes their hands before massaging your head and face, your neck and upper shoulders, your abdomen, the fronts of your legs and feet. Sometimes more than one aromatherapy blend is used during the course of your treatment. 

In some situations however, it may be more appropriate to give a massage treatment which focusses on only one part of the body, e.g. the back/neck/shoulders or your therapist may decide to limit the application of essential oils through massage to specific areas of your body. They might choose to apply the oils to your skin via compresses or they may feel you should simply inhale an oil or a blend of oils to help your current condition. 


At the end of a treatment clients will receive some aftercare advice and where appropriate other advice and maybe some home care products to complement the treatment with advice on use. 

For more information on the quality of care you can expect please see the IFA's Codes of Practice, Ethics and Conduct