You\u2019ve seen them online and in stores. Your coworker raves about the way they help her relax and unwind.\nEssential oils are all the rage these days. But does the practice of aromatherapy, which is based on the idea that certain scents can influence health and well-being, have real benefits?\nWhat Is Aromatherapy?\nAromatherapy involves the use of essential oils, which are concentrated extracts are derived from the roots, seeds, leaves, or flowers of plants.\nAlthough this practice has been used therapeutically for some 6,000 years, it wasn\u2019t until the 1920s that a French scientist began to study the effects of essential oils on burns, infections, and wounds. Aromatherapy became popular in the United States in the 1980s and is often used by massage therapists. Today, aromatherapy is downright trendy.\nCan Aromatherapy Benefit Health?\nProponents claim that essential oils can do everything from aiding in relaxation and improving sleep to easing pain and warding off illness.\nIndeed, some research has uncovered some benefits of aromatherapy. A few studies suggest that certain essential oils (such as lavender, orange blossom, and neroli) appear to help ease anxiety, temporarily reduce blood pressure, encourage sleep, increase alertness, and ease pain.\nWhile it\u2019s still unclear how essential oils work, some scientists believe that they may interact with the body\u2019s hormones and other brain chemicals to help enhance relaxation or stimulation, depending upon scent.\nSafety Tips When Using Aromatherapy\nIn general, essential oils appear to be safe when inhaled or applied topically. However, it\u2019s important to keep in mind that aromatherapy practitioners aren\u2019t specially licensed in the United States. To stay safe, follow these tips:\n\nDon\u2019t eat or drink essential oils unless they are clearly marked safe to be consumed.\nDon\u2019t use essential oils near your eyes or mouth, as they can irritate sensitive areas.\nDon\u2019t use aromatherapy with children under age 5, or if you have a lung or skin condition.\n\nYour health professional may be able to tell you more about the potential benefits of essential oils and how to use them.