WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY?
A form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering mind, mood, cognitive function, or physical health. Aromatherapy does not cure conditions, but helps the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.
A Holistic Approach
Today, aromatherapy is one of the most popular of all complementary therapies, offering a wide range of highly effective treatments to both the acute and chronic stages of illness and disease. At the same time, regular use of aromatherapy treatments and home-use products can help to strengthen the immune system, thereby establishing a preventative approach to overall health.
One of the reasons that aromatherapy has been so hugely successful is because it uses a holistic approach, whereby the aromatherapist takes into account a persons medical history, emotional condition, general health and lifestyle before planning a course of treatment. The whole person is treated – not just the symptoms of an illness – and this is in direct opposition to the modern trend of just treating the presented condition.
Backache, irritable bowel syndrome or headaches, for example, are often the result of stress and not actually a physical problem. Therefore no amount of pill-popping is really going to provide a long term solution since it only masks the symptoms without addressing the problems. By looking at the causes of the stress and providing treatments to ease and manage it, the aromatherapist will alleviate the condition in a much more efficient manner.
Highly concentrated plant cell extracts or aromas; all have aromatic principles. They are essential because they are essential to the plants survival and function in its environment. They are extracted by various methods from a plant’s fruits, flowers, leaves, stalks, bark, rind, or roots. Mixed with a carrier (such as water, oil, alcohol, or lotion), and then put on or applied to the skin, sprayed or diffused into the air, or inhaled from a tissue or cloth. Because they are highly concentrated, they must be used on the skin with caution to avoid over-exposure, toxicity, or sensitization and must be diluted in a carrier before application to the skin. Spraying or diffusing one or two drops into the air dilutes them into the air molecules so they do not need to be mixed with a carrier.
Not for internal use, EVER!!!
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Mechanisms of Action:
- is the influence of aroma on the brain, especially the limbic system through the olfactory system.
- the direct pharmacological effects of the essential oils on the body; oils interact with the glands that excrete hormones and enzymes to cause changes in bodily functions.
Synergy: The interaction or cooperation of two or more substances combined that produce an effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. When combining certain essential oils their synergy can provide a more effective and well rounded therapy than a single oil.
Aromatherapy excels as a form of complementary and alternative medicine, helping and bringing relief to millions of people where conventional medicine currently fails. Of this there can surely be no doubt. But there is one more area where aromatherapy is more effective than possibly any other healing paradigm.
It has long been understood that preventative measures go a very long way towards protecting the body against all types of illness. Therefore the relaxing and de-stressing influence of essential oils and massage, together with their effect on the immune system, places aromatherapy in the pre-eminent position as the finest preventative medicine.
And no matter what your opinion or beliefs may currently be about the efficacy of aromatherapy, there is one thing that we can all surely agree on: prevention really is much better than cure.
HISTORY OF AROMATHERAPY
Little is known about the history of aromatherapy, or where it originated specifically, but the Egyptians are credited with developing one of the first distillation machines to extract oils from certain plants — cedarwood, clove, cinnamon, to name a few — which were used to embalm the dead. The practice of using infused aromatic oils as a mood enhancer, however, is thought to have roots in China.
Champions of Modern Aromatherapy
The term ‘aromatherapie’ was coined by a French chemist named René-Maurice Gattefossé (1881-1950) who studied the medicinal properties of essential oils for many years whilst working in his families perfumery business. He had the opportunity to personally test his innovative theories when an explosion in his laboratory caused a severe burn to his hand.
He plunged his hand into a vessel of pure lavender oil which immediately reduced the swelling and helped accelerate the healing process. Most impressively, he was left with no scar. He was a prolific writer covering many subjects, but it was his passion for researching essential oils that eventually led to the publication in 1937 of his ground-breaking book, ‘Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones vegetales’.
A French doctor named Jean Valnet followed the work of Gattefossé, and during World War 2 whilst working as a surgical assistant he used essential oils of chamomile, clove, lemon and thyme to treat gangrene and battle wounds. After graduating as a surgeon at the end of the war, Valnet continued to use essential oils to treat illnesses, and was the first ever to use them to treat psychiatric conditions. His inspired book, ‘Aromathérapie – Traitment des Maladies par les Essence de Plantes’ was released in 1964, and in 1980 translated into English and released under the new title of ‘The Practice of Aromatherapy’, putting aromatherapy on the English map.
Madame Marguerite Maury (1895-1968) was an Austrian born biochemist who became interested in what was to become aromatherapy, after reading a book written in 1838 by Dr Chabenes called, ‘Les Grandes Possibilités par les Matières Odoriferantes’. This was the man who would later become the teacher of Gattefossé. Her influential book, ‘Le Capital Jeunesse’ was released in France in 1961 but sadly did not initially receive the acclaim that it deserved. In 1964 it was released in Britain under the title of ‘The Secret of Life and Youth’ and has at last been recognised for the great work that it was.
After her death, the work of Maury continued through her protege, Danièle Ryman, who is now herself considered an authority on aromatherapy. The work of Valnet and Gattefossé stimulated and influenced Englishman Robert Tisserand, who in 1977 wrote the very first aromatherapy book in English entitled, ‘The Art of Aromatherapy’. This book became the inspiration and reference for virtually every future author on the subject for almost two decades.
Today we are at last unfolding the final secrets of the Egyptian mysteries, revealing aromatherapy to be one of the finest ways to combat the detrimental effects of stress, restoring the beauty, tranquility and harmony of Nature into the lives of everyone.