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By Andrea Drever

Content and Editorial Director

Physicians at UCLA Health and many other hospitals now offer patients aromatherapy treatments that incorporate essential oils. This isn’t surprising, considering the numerous studies proving their powerful therapeutic value. Some studies have even shown that lavender, which interacts with the neurotransmitter GABA to help quiet the mind and nervous system, may be as effective as antianxiety medications like Xanax or Ativan. Here’s what to know if you’re interested in using these aromatic elixirs to calm your nerves during your travels.

What Are Essential Oils? 
Essential oils are liquid substances extracted from plants — usually flowers, herbs or trees. They’re made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. 

How Do You Use Essential Oils?
These potent plant oils can be inhaled directly — by taking a whiff from the bottle or a tissue drizzled with a couple of drops — or indirectly, through a diffuser that spreads atomized fragrance through the air. 

What Are Some of the Benefits of Essential Oils? 
The benefits of essential oils vary as widely as the fragrances themselves. Lavender oil can improve sleep quality and increase time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep. Bergamot essential oil has been shown to ease feelings of anxiety and stress. Lemon oil has been found to boost mood. Peppermint oil, which has an eye-opening, bright scent, appears to increase memory and alertness. 

How Do You Find Quality Oils? 
Avoid so-called "fragrance oils” and “perfume oils.” These are made from essential oils combined with chemicals, or even entirely from chemicals. Instead, look for bottles that contain a single essential oil in its purest form. Look for 100% essential oil with no other fillers. Choose oils in dark, glass containers, because essential oils will dissolve plastic bottles, tainting the oil. Also, beware of ultra-low prices, since pure oils generally cost at least $10 for a half-ounce bottle. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering it takes about 220 pounds of lavender flowers to make one pound of essential oil.   

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