Aromatherapy has been defined as the art of using plant materials, referred to as essential oils, to aid the overall health of the mind, body, and spirit. Although the term “aroma” makes it appear as if the essential oils are only inhaled, they’re also used as massage oils and in rare cases consumed by mouth (under a specialist’s recommendation). Whether applied to the skin or inhaled, over the years essential oils have gained attention as an alternative treatment for stress, infections, and other health issues, finally taking note of its long history of therapeutic uses.
The History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has been used for restorative purposes for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans used essential oils in perfumes, skin care, perfumes and medicines. Aromatherapy was commonly used for ritualistic and spiritual purposes as well. Egypt is recognized as the origin for significant development in aromatherapy. In 3500 BC, the first essential oil distillation took place in Egypt.
In ancient Egypt (mid 2000 BC), the process of mummification was developed in their search for immortality. Cedarwood, cinnamon, frankincense, galbanum, juniper berry, myrrh, and spikenard were used to help preserve the bodies of royalty, preparing them for the afterlife. In-depth understanding of Egyptian beauty treatments can be attributed to their ancient burial rituals, as well as the country’s arid climate which played a part in preservation.
More recently, in 1928 French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé, uncovered the therapeutic properties of lavender oil when he used it on a burn he encountered during an explosive accident in his lab. His discovery led to his continued analyze of essential oils and their chemical makeup. He found that they were highly effective at not only treating burns, but skin infections, gangrene, using the oils to treat the wounds of soldiers during World War I. By the 1950s beauticians, massage therapists, medical professionals, physiotherapists and more had discovered the benefits of aromatherapy, however, it didn’t gain popularity until the 1980’s in the United States. Today, numerous products claim to be aromatherapeutic however many contain synthetic fragrances that don’t contain the same properties as all-natural essential oils.
More about Essential Oils
Essential oils are the concentrated substances extracted from the roots, leaves, blossoms and/or seeds from plants. Each oil contains its own blend of active ingredients, and it is this combination that establishes what the oil can be used for. Several essential oils are used to encourage physical healing, treating health issues like fungal infections and swelling. Other oils are used for their emotive value, meaning that they encourage relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, typically by adding an enchanting scent to the air. For example, Orange blossom oil contains a substantial amount of an active ingredient that is considered to be calming. Essential oils like lavender, frankincense, and rose have been used by midwives, to help reduce the feelings of fear and anxiety in pregnant women. Many pregnant women have also said that the smell of peppermint oil reduces vomiting and/or nausea during labor. In general, essential oils have many benefits including relieving pain, improving moods and having a calming effect. In fact, several essential oils including bergamot, geranium, lavender, lemon, orange, rose, sandalwood, and many others have been shown to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.