Aromatherapy means to treat with aroma through inhalation. The smell of a good cup of coffee in the morning is a form of aromatherapy. An aroma – whether from a flower, a herb, or a plant – will have similar actions and effects upon the human psyche. An odor molecule – whether from a food, a flower, a herb, or essential oils – will stimulate the same release of hormones to promote digestion and relaxation, and stimulate the senses in some, depending upon its components’ properties. A conditioned response to a particular aroma can also play a part in your response to a particular scent.
In modern times, aromatherapy has become associated primarily with essential oils and developed into a form of alternative medicine.
History Of Aromatherapy
It was the French perfumer and cosmetic chemist Rene-Maurice Gattéfosse, who convinced that the antimicrobial properties of many essential oils were greater than the chemical pharmaceuticals being used. Gattéfosse turned his attention to researching the medicinal properties of essential oils and their benefits for treating skin conditions. During WWI, Gattéfosse used essential oils with patients in military hospitals. He published his findings in his book Aromtherapie, and is credited with coining the term “Aromatherapy.”
As well, aroma is now frequently used in scent marketing. By using scent, brands are able to connect with consumers on a deeper, emotional level, resulting in a more memorable experience.
Ancient Use Of Aroma
The use of aromatic plants, herbs, and flowers is the oldest form of healing disease and pain. Knowledge about the medicinal effects of flowers, plants, and herbs have been recorded in the oldest writings in the history, myth, and folklore. Records found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts show that priests and physicians were using plant aromatics thousands of years before the birth of Christ to heal the sick and infirm.
In ancient times, certain plant balms and fragrances – like Frankincense and Myrrh – were considered more valuable than gold. There are numerous references to plant substances in the Bible. Finally now, with the advent of modern scientific research, we are beginning to investigate the incredible healing potential found in aromatic plants, flowers, herbs, and essential oils.
Introduction To Essential Oils
Essential oils are the concentrated, volatile, or ethereal oils extracted from a single botanical plant source. The part of the plant that yields the maximum amount of volatile oil is what’s used in the extraction process, i.e., flowers, leaves, stems, bark, seeds, and roots of shrubs, bushes, herbs, and trees.
When the substance of a scent is still on the plant, it is called an essence. After distillation from the plant parts – flowers or herbs – the volatile aromatic compound is referred to as an essential oil.
These subtle, highly aromatic compounds are found in the specialized cells or glands of plants and herbs. Through millennia, these plant excretions have evolved as protection for flowers and plants from the predators to attract pollinators.
Surprisingly, aromatic compounds are not found in all plants. ‘Why this is so’ remains a mystery!
Flowers, herbs, and edible foods have a long history of use as medicines.
Traditional Healing And Its Uses
Virtually, everything used today in the modern drugs can be traced back to a botanical source. Hippocrates – the father of modern day medicine – taught that following the traditional healing, wisdom and the good common sense passed down to us for hundreds and even thousands of years in the use of nature’s botanical medicines, is the best way to a good health and healing. Hippocrates recommended a scented bath and a daily massage.
The wide range of uses includes – treatments for beauty and skin care, cold and flu prevention and treatment, as well as natural remedies for treating a variety of health issues from respiratory conditions to digestive complaints, weight loss, insomnia, and even cancer.
Myth About A Plant
Many people think the same internal actions and effects can be experienced from a plant – whether as a flower, oil, herb, or food – when ingested. However, this is simply not true. Unlike the subtle aroma of a particular aromatic plant, the specific chemical compounds, properties, actions, and effects of a plant, herb, flower, or essential oil may be distinctly different from one another – even though their aromatic scent may indicate otherwise.
There is some crossover with uses, but sometimes, an herb would be better for promoting balance and supporting healing, while at other times, it would be best to use the whole food. Generally, the best results are obtained with flowers and essential oils when directly inhaled or infused in a carrier oil for topical application.