Thursday, May 19, 2022

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A Brief History of Aromatherapy and Essential Oil

History of Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used in healing modalities aromatherapy for millennia. It’s a branch of herbalism that has a rich history of medicinal, therapeutic, and hygienic purposes. Ancient civilizations used essential oils to treat various ailments as a complementary therapy.

Plants, in general, can have incredible, borderline unbelievable benefits when used as a treatment. So many lab-made drugs use plant extracts as their base and then build on that.

Up to 50% the approved drugs during the last 30 years are from either directly or indirectly from natural products and in the area of cancer, over the time frame from around the 1940s to date, of the 175 small molecules 85 actually being either natural products or directly derived there from.

National Institute of Health

Hippocrates – the father of medicine, was a lifelong student of botany and herbalism and prescribed aromatics in various forms, from essential and massage oils, to teas, infusions, ointments and baths.

René Maurice Gattefossé was the first one to actually give this practice its name – aromatherapy and is considered one of the most important figures in contemporary aromatherapy. This French chemical engineer was passionate about scent in general but especially when used for therapeutic purposes. He claimed he healed his badly burned arm by using lavender essential oils and that many patients suffering from gangrene, scabies, or venereal diseases, were cured by prescribed essential oils.

Another Frenchman Dr. Jean Valnet was a surgeon that revolutionized aromatherapy by using it as an antiseptic wound treatment in WWII.

There is no such thing as a magic pill that will cure any and every illness and essential oils are no different. Where they excel is prevention and treatment of a lot of very unpleasant symptoms that come with certain medical conditions. After all, there is a reason why this potent liquid has been used by Romans, the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, and Greeks – it’s effective.

How and Why?

Essential oil is a liquid extracted from certain parts of the plant. Generally speaking we usually use bark, stems, roots, flowers, seeds, and so on.

Essential oils as aromatherapy are usually used in diffusers, or as a massage oil. They shouldn’t be ingested unless under the strict supervision of a certified aromatherapist. When applied topically, essential oils should (almost) always be diluted in carrier oils (which are other more gentle and neutral oils such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, or even olive oil) and then applied to the skin.

As we all know, aromas can stimulate much more than just your sense of scent. Certain smells can bring us back in time and fill us with nostalgia, others we associate with pleasant things such as the smell of citrus or pines that reminds us or fresh and clean things.

But there are also more complex processes involved. Essential oils are incredibly powerful and volatile which means we have to be careful and use all the safety precautions when we decide to use them, but it also means that they are very potent and effective.

Essential oils tend to have various degrees of antibacterial, antibiotic, analgesic, anxiolitic, antidepressant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and other properties, that can be beneficial.

Another plus is that essential oils are less toxic than a lot of widely available drugs (NSAID’s, opioids, etc. ). Each oil is different and there really is no such thing as a magical oil or even a mix of oils. It truly comes down to the person using the essential oils and their scent preferences, budget, ailments, skin type, and so on.

Aromatherapy is equal parts science and art and the best way to find the best oils for your personality is researching and experimenting.

More Benefits of Aromatherapy

One of the main benefits of aromatherapy is the fact that it can boost and regulate your mood in a very gentle and controlled way. Essential oils are an amazing tool for anyone that needs to relax after a busy day. With the help of essential oil, you can easily create your own sanctuary.

Modern Day Use of Essential Oil

As people search for more natural, inexpensive solutions for various health issues, aromatherapy is becoming more and more popular.

The aromatherapy market is growing exponentially and it doesn’t seem like this trend is stopping anytime soon. This type of alternative medicine has been gaining popularity, not only amongst alternative medicine fans but conventional medical professionals as well.

France has a well-established tradition where medical doctors and pharmacists are trained to help their patients choose the right essential oils.

It is perhaps most often used as a mood regular that has been shown to be effective in mild to moderate cases of anxiety and depression and even in some incredibly stressful situations (oncology patients).

For anyone that is skeptical, the fact of the matter is that aromatherapy doesn’t just have a very long and rich history in folk medicine. More and more studies have been exploring aromatherapy and essential oils and clearly show that many oils may be just as effective as pharmaceutical drugs.

The Future of Aromatherapy

Considering the fact that more and more research papers are confirming the beneficial properties of compounds found in essential oils, the entire industry is and should continue to thrive and at the moment definitely looks very promising.

More online health food and other stores are offering a wide array of essential oils that have different benefits. Anyone can find an oil that will suit them and improve their life, if in no other way, simply by bringing a lovely scent into their home and life.

The history of aromatherapy is rich, the future promising.


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“René-Maurice Gattefossé.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Feb. 2020,é-Maurice_Gattefossé.

Boehm, Katja, et al. “Aromatherapy as an Adjuvant Treatment in Cancer Care–a Descriptive Systematic Review.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines : AJTCAM, African Networks on Ethnomedicines, 1 July 2012,

Kalemba, D, and A Kunicka. “Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties of Essential Oils.” Current Medicinal Chemistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2003,

Sánchez-Vidaña, Dalinda Isabel, et al. “The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2017,