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the principle of surrounding yourself with fragrances that make you feel comfortable and relaxed. Some of these relaxants come in the form of concentrated oils that may be absorbed through the skin

In Britain, this dates back to early medieval days, possibly when people wanting to look their best turned to the village herbalist - someone who specialised in grinding, brewing and mixing leaves, flowers and fruits of plants which grew wild.

Elsewhere, aromatherapy is thought to date back to around 1000 AD, when Persian doctors first distilled fragrant oils from plants to make soothing lotions.

The father of modern aromatherapy is considered to be Rene-Maurice Gattefossé in the early 20th century, who, when burning his hand used lavender oil and noticed how quickly it healed.

About 70 types of essential oils are now used, sometimes by massage, sometimes as a bath additive, and also as an inhalation. In all cases only a few drops of concentrated oil are diluted with flavourless oil or hot water. None of these oils should be taken internally.

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Some of the most popular are as follows -

Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia): Lightens the mood and mildly antiseptic.

Black Pepper (Piper Nigrum): Slightly antiseptic. This oil acts as a stimulating tonic which eases and aching body after exercise.

Cedar Wood (Cedrus Atlantical): Uplifting, but quells tension after a busy day.

Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea): soothing and calming.

This shouldn"t be used if you"re pregnant.

Cypress (Cupressus Sempervirens): soothing and calming.

Also acts as a mild antiseptic.

Chamomile (Anthermis Nobilis): soothing and calming.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Globulus): Antiseptic and head clearing.

Frankincense (Boswellia Carterii): Both antiseptic and astringent. This reaxes and soothes the emotions after a diffiicult day.

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): Comforting and promoting a harmoonious atmosphere.

Grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi): An uplifting pick-me-up, invigorates the senses. Also a mild antiseptic.

Juniper Berry (Junperus Communis): Antiseptic and balancing. Relaxes and refreshes tired muscles and aching limbs.

Kanuka (Leptospermum Ericoides): Good antiseptic properties, and stimulates the senses.

Lemon (Citrus Limonum): Refreshing and mood uplifting. Also a mild antiseptic.

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon Citratus): Stimulating, energises and refreshes.

Lime (Citrus Aurantifolia): Stimulating and creating a refreshing atmosphere.

Mandarin (Citrus Reticulata): soothing and calming.

May Chang (Litsea Cubeba): Uplifts the senses and helps to clear the head.

Patchouli (Pogostemon Cablin): Stimulating and uplifting and acting as a mild antiseptic.

Peppermint (Mentha Piperita): Antiseptic and refreshing. This oil generates an uplifting atmosphere and refreshes the senses.

Petitgrain (Citrus Amara): A good balancing oil, promoting a restful state.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis): Invigorating and refreshing, refreshing your body and senses.

Sweet Marjoram (Marjorana Hortensis): soothing and calming.

This shouldn"t be used if you"re pregnant.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia): Antiseptic, stimulating and good to balance you physically.

Yiang Yiang (Cananga Odorata): Comforting and evoking a relaxed and harmonious state.

Information is available from: Aromatherapy Organisations Council, P.O. Box 19834, London, SE25 6WF. Tel: 020-8251 7912. See 'Bach Flower Remedies'

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