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What is aromatherapy?

February 05, 1998

What is aromatherapy?

What is aromatherapy?

Break the word into its parts - aroma meaning fragrance, and therapy meaning treatment - and it's as plain as the nose on your face.

Aromatherapy is thought to have begun in ancient Egypt about 6,000 years ago, and methods used by Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Indians, Aztecs and North American Indians are similar to those used today, according to information on the Web site of The Kevala Centre, an international yoga school in Devon, England.

Although aromatherapy has been around for a long time, Maria Spencer says no one on the East Coast had heard of it five years ago when she opened the Bath House, a shop and spa across from Berkeley Spring State Park in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. She had to order her supplies from the West Coast.

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The essential oils used in aromatherapy are distilled from natural substances - leaves, bark - it depends on the plant. In order to be useful, the scents have to be pure or natural - not synthetic, Spencer says.

The Bath House sells aromatherapy votive candles and offers half-hour treatments in an Aroma Spa. Spencer says the walk-in and sit-down vaporizer looks like a space capsule. Clients can choose from eight blends of respiration, relaxation, energy and meditation.

"We all react to scent. It can be very evocative," Spencer says.

Catching a whiff of baking bread can take her back to the smells of a childhood bakery and she says she almost can be 7 or 8 years old again.

"People are just rediscovering the power of scents," Spencer says.

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