What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using plant essences to treat the body physiologically and psychologically.

Essential Oils
What are essential oils?

Essential oils, or plant essences come from different parts of plants. They are extracted in many different ways including steam distillation, solvent, and cold expression. You’ve probably come into contact with them in their plant form already. Lavender is one of the best known oils and offers a simple example of essential oils in plant/flower form. You can experience them by simply touching the plant. If you gently rub lavender between your fingers, the lavender scent left on your fingers is the essential oil.

Essential Oil Purposes
Essential oils are created by the plant for many reasons – to attract beneficial bugs, ward off those that can cause damage, and more.

Human Use

Because essential oils evolved in nature along side humans, they are often well suited to work within our bodies without causing harm, though there are exceptions.

Essential oils are a combination of other different plant chemicals compounds. They are subdivided into two groups and from there divided again into their separate compounds. They work together synergistically to create different effects. Some are bactericidal, some are anti-inflammatory, or antidepressants. Most oils do many different things.
Lavender is a good example as it has many effects. They are as follows: analgesic, anticonvulsive,antidepressant,antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic ,antispasmodic ,anti-toxic, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, cicatrisant, cordial, cytophalactive, deoderant, diurective, emmenagogue, hypotensive, insecticide, nervine, parassiticide, rubefacient, sedative, stimulant, sudorific, tonic vermifuge, and vulnerary.

Beyond the singular oils and the actions they have, they can work synergistically. When you mix oils together their actions can become stronger or more balanced in a specific way depending on the oils blended. As such you can end up with different effects. For example, lavender can make you feel relaxed and sleepy. If you combine it with a citrus oil such as lemon you introduce the second oil’s properties into the mix. Citrus oils are stimulating and as such can help to counteract the “sleepiness” you can feel when just using lavender.

Cautions & Notes
As I mentioned before, there are exceptions to safety that should be noted. Some oils are toxic, some can give you a chemical burn, some may just cause a sunburn if you apply them topically and then go out into the sun. Here’s a short though incomplete list.
Vanilla essential oil, has to be diluted as it can give you a chemical burn. It is so strong that is is only sold diluted in a carrier oil. Oregano which we can get undiluted can cause burning as well, but to a much lesser extent, and if diluted properly before applied to skin it can be used safely and therapeutically. Citrus oils are certainly gentler however they will allow your skin to burn easier once out in the sun.

Only a few essential oils are safe for use undiluted on human skin (or pet skin). One of those is lavender.

Now, some oils can be used on pets, but I’m less familiar with pet essential oil safety. Lavender is one I feel safe using. In my research it’s been explained that dogs and cats react to essential oils differently. Dogs systems can process them better than cats. However, I still come across people who feel as though essential oils are the lesser of the evils when treating their cats and dogs. Ultimately, it’s up to you as a pet owner to do further research.

False aromatherapy

There is such a thing as “fake aromatherapy.” Most people think of all scented candles and bath salts as representative of aromatherapy. For the most part it’s just marketing. Often those products don’t contain real essential oils but a synthetic version that does not carry the same therapeutic value. There are of course candles and bath salts using true essential oils but they are much less common and not likely to be sold cheaply in a chain store.