Making scents: The Aromatherapy Effect


Straight to the brain via the nose, the aroma of essential oils has a powerful effect on our psychological and physiological wellbeing. By Amber Gardner.

Holistic aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Essential oils are the pure essences found in flowers, berries, grasses, roots, seeds, bark, fruits and herbs, which are extracted mainly by steam or water distillation. The process is similar to steaming vegetables as opposed to deep-frying them to preserve nutritional value. This methodology ensures that the healing essence and properties of that specific plant or botanic has been preserved as it is delicately concentrated into an essential oil.

All oils have their own unique character, aroma and therapeutic properties; as they are highly concentrated, a little goes a long way.

Essential oils hold many beneficial qualities on all levels of wellbeing yet their most distinct feature is their aroma. Aroma works on one of the most fascinating systems in our body; the limbic system, the most primal area of our brain that controls emotions, memories, motivation, sexual arousal, sleep patterns and hormones. The simple act of ‘smelling’ activates these areas within the brain and affects us on physical, emotional and mental levels.

Smelling an essential oil causes odour molecules to pass through the nose up into the brain, where it is then received by nerve receptors that trigger reactions in the body and mind. The limbic system is directly connected to hormone balance, breathing, blood pressure, memory, stress levels and heart rate. Thus explaining how and why essential oils hold such potent therapeutic qualities.

Each essential oil holds its own unique collection of properties that can range from lowering high blood pressure and easing toothaches to instilling a sense of relaxation and happiness. Moreover, the majority of essential oils hold antiseptic, antimicrobial and antiviral qualities, which are beneficial on the physical level.

Holistic aromatherapy is effective just by smelling the essential oils. Although often associated with massage, it is also a stand-alone practice. Essential oils hold potent qualities without needing the application of massage to be effective. They are successfully used in beauty products, simple topical self-application, diffused, used in a bath and much more.


Even though each essential oil holds its own unique range of therapeutic properties, the limbic system and its memory response have a greater effect on how we perceive scent. Every person responds to each essential oil differently. While lemon essential oil may uplift some people, it may trigger an opposing reaction in others.

This is why the consultation process in holistic aromatherapy is crucial as one must take into account the physical, mental and emotional properties of essential oils as well as the reactions of each person to those oils and scents. Moreover, over time, a person’s reactions to different scents will change as healing takes place.

A simple example is how, in one person, the smell of lemon essential oil could trigger memories of citrusy lollipops from a happy childhood of summers spent at the beach while, for another person, the lemon scent could trigger a painful memory of being trapped in a cleaning cupboard. Consequently, these triggers affect us emotionally as we feel delighted or upset as well as physically as our body responds to the aroma and memory with a smile and relaxed muscles or with a cringe and tensed muscles. Hence, holistic aromatherapy works on the whole person for an array of emotional, mental and physical issues.

Throughout history, essential oils and holistic aromatherapy have been used for both their therapeutic and aromatic properties. By design or by accident many people have found their lives were saved or their quality of life was increased through the use of essential oils. Many were revered for their mythical, magical, or religious healing abilities, all of which were made possible by the understanding of essential oils and their applications.


Three simple and easy home remedies to get you started…

The Pimple Exterminator

  • 10ml Grapeseed Oil (high in Vitamin E and antioxidants)
  • 5 drops of Lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops of Tea Tree essential oil
  • 5 drops of Lavender essential oil

Mix together and apply on desired areas overnight and watch your pimples disappear.

The Sunburn Soother

  • 30ml of Sesame Seed Oil or Almond Oil (Aloe Vera would also work wonderfully)
  • 5 drops of Lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops of Chamomile essential oil
  • 5 drops of Bergamont essential oil

Mix them up and apply all over your body to soothe and cool affected areas. Drink water to rid the body of excess toxins.

The Headache Alleviator 

  • 10ml of Base Oil (Sesame Seed, Almond Oil, Grapeseed Oil)
  • 5 drops of Lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops of Chamomile essential oil

Mix together and apply to your forehead then sit with the scent in your hands. Cup palms over your nose and inhale for a few minutes. Drink water to rid the body of excess toxins.


Everywhere I go, I carry a bottle of pre-mixed bottle lavender essential oil in a carrier of grapeseed oil (10 drops lavender to 10 mls grapeseed because pure essential oils shouldn’t be put on bare skin). It comes in handy for so many things such as cuts, bruises, burns, sunburn, scars, abscess, open wounds, eczema, psoriasis, stress, nervous tension and much more.


To purchase essential oils and aromatherapy products in the UAE, here are some starting points:

1. Altearah Bio is a range of organic aromatherapy products available at Spadunya on The Walk, JBR. Altearah Bio is a 100 per cent certified award-winning organic range of spa and retail products produced in the South of France in Spadunya’s own  ISO certified organic laboratory. The product range comprises 14 synergies of essential oils in wellbeing perfumes, face and body oils, serums, srubs, bath salts and room fragrances.

2. Tisserand Essential Oils are distributed in the UAE by Super Nature LLC, to see the range, go to They are available at Planet Nutrition Stores, Park & Shop Stores, Abela Superstore in Abu Dhabi, Balance Wellbeing, The Holistic Souq, and The Medilink Pharmacy in Arabian Ranches. Or buy online at and

3. Neal’s Yard Remedies Essential Oils can be purchased at the Neal’s Yard outlets through out the UAE. For locations, go to

4. Essensuals Essential Oils can be purchased at Essensuals Holistic Training Institute, email or go to



In the UAE, you can do a beginner’s one-day course called Basic Aromatherapy – The Art of Blending with Sunita Teckchand, Dubai’s most well known Integrated Holistic Therapist. In this course, you will learn about the 10 most common organic essential oils, understand their properties and physical uses and how to blend them together. You will also learn some common diseases and how to make blends to tackle them.

Cost: AED 1,800. To register, call Sunita on 050-657-5628 or email


  1. Naturally Thinking at
  2. Young Living at
  3. Aromahead Courses at
  4. Nature’s Gift Online Courses at



Aromatherapy dates back to 1539-657 BC when ancient Egyptians used oils daily as perfumes and beauty products, for ceremonial purposes, as well as for medicine and mummification. They would create perfume cones out of fat and fragrant botanic oils then place them on their heads at public gatherings. The cones would melt in the heat, which would not only help with the foul-smelling crowds but the botanic properties from the oils would also protect them against disease.

Oils were so much part of ancient Egyptian culture that around 48 BC when Julius Caesar returned to Rome with Cleopatra, there was a lavish parade where bottles of perfume where thrown into the crowds to symbolise Egyptian ways. Consequently the use of oils developed over thousands of years and spread throughout the world to the Romans, Hebrews, Assyrians and Babylonians.

It was studied by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, in 460-377 BC as well as by the Persian physician Ibn Sina, aka Avicenna, in 980-1037 AD. Ibn Sina was the first person to develop steam distillation and as a result produced rose oil.

In the Middle Ages, the Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague, wiped out millions of people across Europe, it was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. Interestingly, workers in perfumeries and aromatics industries had a significantly lower infection rate, arguably due to the antiseptic and antiviral qualities of the oils they handled. Also, doctors of the time wore a ‘plague mask’ a long-nosed, bird-like beak mask that was filled with dried flowers, herbs and spices.

In 1910, French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé worked in his family’s perfumery business and sought out to study the medicinal properties of essential oils. During one of his experiments there was an explosion in his laboratory, which covered his hands in burning substances. He rinsed them in lavender oil and noted that the healing effects possibly saved his life. He went on to experiment on WWI soldiers in military hospitals. Gattefossé is credited with coining the term ‘aromatherapy’ in his 1937 book, ‘Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones vegetales’.

In 1977, the discoveries and recorded workings of Gattefossé and others inspired Englishman Robert Tisserand to publish the first English book on the subject entitled, ‘The Art of Aromatherapy’. His book is now the go-to reference for any aspiring aromatherapy practitioner.

Amber Gardner is a Dubai-based IFPA certified Holistic Aromatherapist. Email her on


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