What is Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the use of plant based essential oils to affect your mental functions, mood, and overall health. For thousands of years practitioners of alternative medicine have used macerated plant material in fatty oils to create scent-based medicines.
Modern Aromatherapy began in the 1930’s with René-Maurice Gattefossé’s flagship book on the subject called Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales. Aroma based therapies have experienced a modern renaissance over the past few years.
While it is impossible to know exactly who first began using essential oils in this manner, there are quite a few cultures that we know have made use of these methods. In ancient Egypt, essential oils were used during the embalming process, as perfumes, for medical usage, and during religious ceremonies.
These oils were of such importance to their civilization that the tomb of King Tut contained 50 alabaster jars that could hold up to 350 liters of it. Egyptians have been credited with creating the first distillation process to extract oils from plants.
It wasn’t long until Aromatherapy made its way to Greece. Greek doctors went to Egypt in order to continue their medical education on the subject. These doctors went on to set up a medical school on the island of Cos.
This was the institution that Hippocrates taught at. During this period Marestheos realized the ability of aromatic plants to have an effect on the mind. In his book ‘Concerning Odors’ he discussed fully his views of the sedative and stimulating properties of these materials on the mind.
These methods quickly spread to Rome, where people became even more obsessed with the usage of essential oils and perfumes. They were used to scent their homes, clothes, beds, in their public baths, as well as directly on their bodies. Many cosmetology books came out of this era which had recipes for aromatics that would heal skin conditions.
During the middle ages the Persian physician Avidenna created more modern methods of distillation. Through his work came a much more potent method of getting at these essential oils to create medicines.
About 60 different essential oils were known to be used as medicine by the time of the seventeenth century. Aromatherapy was used extensively during the plague. It was found that perfumers had a better chance of surviving through an outbreak, and doctors began looking into this.
The term ‘Aromatherapy’ was coined by the pioneer on the subject René-Maurice Gattefossé. He was a perfumer that through accident found the benefits of these essential oils in medicine. During an explosion he immersed his burned hand into a vat of lavender oil. The burn healed quickly and he did not experience any infection or scarring. This lead to him focusing his work on the medicinal properties of aromatherapy as well.
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