Aromatherapy is at the core of all I do for my clients. So I thought I’d to share the background to my profession.
Where does the term aromatherapy come from?
‘Aromatherapie’ was first used by French chemist and perfumer Rene-Maurice Gattefosse in 1937. He used it to distinguish between the medical application of essential oils and their use in the perfumery sector. The International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA) defines it as ‘the ancient art and science of using and blending naturally extracted essential oils to balance, harmonise and promote the health of body, mind and spirit’.
Although the phrase ‘Aromatherapy’ has only been used since 1937 the practice of using aromatics has been around since time began.
Where did it all begin?
The Ancient Egyptians are credited with being pioneers in the use of aromatic substances:
- they burned incense before the opening of a shrine;
- for national celebrations;
- the coronation of a pharaoh;
- to ward off evil spirits from the dead;
- they used myrrh, pine resin and oakmoss when embalming dead bodies.
They also discovered they could make perfumed oils. Most of these included frankincense (one of my favourite essential oils), myrrh, lilies, pine, cedar, mints and other herbs.
Moving forward to the Ancient Greeks
The Ancient Greeks further advanced the use of aromatics. Theophrastus, observed that essential oils applied externally, not only affected the skin, but the internal organs and tissues. Hippocrates is recognised as the father of Modern Medicine. He believed a fundamental element of medicine was the balance between mental, emotional and physical health. He believed it was the doctor’s duty to restore and assist the body’s own healing powers. Many of the remedies used during this time are still used today. These include Juniper Berry for its diuretic properties (helps remove water and salt from your body), Marjoram for its soporific (sleep inducing) properties etc. Many Greek physicians worked in Rome and shared their knowledge. As a result the Roman armies spread their knowledge of Mediterranean healing plants around Europe.
During the time of the plague aromatic plants came into their own again, as people used the strongly aromatic herbs and oils to cover the putrid smells. Municipal authorities lit bonfires of aromatic woods to purify the air. Doctors often wore nosebags filled with clove, cinnamon and other aromatic herbs, these are still used today for their strong anti-microbial properties.
It was in the late 1800’s that microbes had been identified as the cause of many diseases. In France at this time, the anti-microbial effects of essential oils were realised. This occurred when someone drew attention to the low number of people being affected with tuberculosis in the flower-growing districts of France. This led to the first recorded laboratory testing for the antibacterial effects of essential oils.
Modern day aromatherapy
And so, we come back to Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who a few years before he coined the name ‘aromatherapie’ discovered the healing properties of lavender after burning his hands during a laboratory experiment. He went on to use this knowledge when treating soldiers injured during the First World War. He noted ‘while the antiseptic power of essence is of enormous interest, especially since it is not attended by any of the disadvantages found to such a large degree with all the other antiseptics used hitherto, greater attention needs to be devoted to the power they have of revitalising tissue’ (Gattefosse 1937).
Aromatherapy moves on with Marguerite Maury, a French biochemist. She ’emphasised the importance of essential oils not only in massage, but also as psychotherapeutic substances capable of bringing about changes in one’s mood’ (Battaglia 2003). Robert Tisserand is further attributed to the progress of holistic aromatherapy. ‘Tisserand’s book, was the first to leave the purely medical approach to aromatherapy, combining medical applications with a more holistic and esoteric view of essential oils’ (Battaglia 2003).
It is this holistic approach that appeals to me so strongly with aromatherapy.
I also offer a selection of aromatherapy based take home products and gifts, these include bath salts, room sprays and roller balls. If you’d like more information on these or anything else please get in touch.