In this article we look at essential oil healing and how the essential oils are made. We also explore the history and beliefs surrounding aromatherapy and then specifically examine what is an aromatherapy oil?
History And Beliefs Of The Aromatherapy Oil
To truly understand aromatherapy oils we need to look at the alternative medicine “Aromatherapy”
We explore it’s history and the beliefs that have developed surrounding it’s practice.
As may be obvious the word Aromatherapy is a derivative of two other words:
- Aroma – which means having a fragrance or smell
- Therapy – which means giving or getting a form of treatment for illness or imbalance.
The first recorded historical evidence of Aromatherapy is credited to an Egyptian medical papyrus which dates back to around 1555 BC.
However it is likely that it was practiced long before being physically recorded, and contained specific remedies for illnesses along with methods of treatment.
These treatments and applications are almost identical to some forms of aromatherapy still practiced in today’s modern society.
Early Egyptians And Aromatherapy Oil
From these early recorded papyrus we know the ancient Egyptians used an infusion method to extract oils from various aromatic plants.
These infusions were commonly used to create incense.
2 highly popular infused incenses were Frankincense and Myrrh.
Each incense was burned at sunrise and sunset – Frankincense at sunrise as an offering to Ra the sun god and Myrrh at Sunset for the moon god Khonsu.
The Egyptians also used aromatics in their practice of mummification and embalming.
Not only used on the dead, the practice of “perfumery” developed where fragrant oils (aromatherapy oil) were massaged into the skin following bathing. This practice was believed to ensure health, vitality and well-being.
Following the Egyptians we next see reference to Aromatherapy in ancient Greece.
Ancient Greeks And The Aromatherapy Oils
This is where we see the aromatherapy oils being used both for medicinal and for cosmetic purposes.
Greek herbal physician Pedanius Dioscorides was one of the first to document Aro,atherapy practices as a formof medicine.
He compiled the herbal medical guide “De Materia Medica”.
This book became the accepted medical reference text in the Western world for over 1200 years.
Similarly to the ancient Egyptian papyrus the remedies and practices described by Dioscorides are still in use today.
Other Notable References to The Aromatherapy Oil.
One of the most famous and well known historical references to the practice of Aromatherapy comes from The Bible
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” John 12:3 King James Version
It was then the Romans who, basing their medical knowledge from the Greeks, began using aromatics.
Ancient Rome was the bathing capital of the world and widely used aromatherapy oil in massage after bathing.
Following the establishment of trade routes through Arabia and East India the Romans discovered the wide usage of aromatics and began importing them.
Arabic Trade Routes And Aromatherapy Oil
Avicenna, an Arab Physician (A.D 980 to AD 1037) is the person accredited to have discovered the process of distillation to gather the aromatic oils.
This discovery gave us “the essence of Rose”, and was distilled through a process now known as a refrigerated coil.
At the same time it was the Arabs who also discovered the process for distillation of alcohol.
This made it possible to produce aromatic perfumes without the common thick and oily base.
The Chinese and Aromatherapy Oil.
Shen Nung, the author of the oldest surviving medical reference text in China (dated around 2700 BC) contains health related information of over 300 plants.
It clearly references the practice of a medicinal aromatherapy alongside accepted religious practices of using aromatic herbs, burning of aromatic woods and lighting incense in reverence to God.
Other historical references to the use of aromatherapy in civilizations and as a recognized medical practice are:
The traditional medical practice of Ayurveda, from India, is over 3000 years old and incorporates aromatic massage as a key aspect.
The Aztecs were well known for their use of herbal remedies and aromatic medicines. Montezuma’s botanical gardens were filled with medicinal plants and were discovered when the Conquistadores invaded the Aztec nation.
Herbal Oils and Aromatic Remedies were widely used by North American Indian cultures.
It was not until the 19th century that physicians and scientists across Europe began to properly research Aromatherapy and in particular the impact of essential oils on bacteria.
René Maurice Gattefossé, a French physician is credited as being the “Father” of Modern Aromatherapy.
After burning his hand in his laboratory he applied lavender oil and was amazed at how quickly the injury healed.
This led him to begin scientific research on the healing properties of essential oils and aromatics.
His book “Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales“, published in 1937, contains his research on the anti-microbial effects of the oils.
This is where the terms Aromatherapy originates.
Following the publication of his book he continued his research and went on to establish a business producing oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics.
Gattefosse was not alone in the researching of aromatherapy oil usage.
Other French researchers also published material and medical references in the usage of Aromatherapy oils.
Albert Couvreur, published a medical reference on the usage of essential oils for healing around the same time as Gattefosse.
Valnet used essential oils as a major part of treating wounded soldiers and civilians during the war and was amazed by their enormous positive impact on healing and recovery.
Around this time Marguerite Maury, another French citizen and highly regarded biochemist developed the method of applying these oils to the skin with massage.
However it was Micheline Arcier, after studying and working directly with Maury and Valnet who combined their remedial practices and guidelines to create the form of Aromatherapy now used worldwide.
What is an Aromatherapy Oil?
Aromatherapy Oil, or Essential Oils, are a combination of the volatile plant oils with a carrier oil (such as coconut or ground-nut) and are used in the treatment or prevention of disease.
Aromatherapy oils are used within the holistic and complementary discipline of Aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is designed to treat the whole person (holistic remedy) not just the symptom or disease.
It is claimed that the use of essential oils assists the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself.
Aromatherapy oils consist of tiny aromatic molecules from plant and herb essential oils that are readily absorbed via the skin and whilst breathing they enter the lungs.
Once the aromatherapy oil therapeutics enter the body they are absorbed into the bloodstream and travel quickly throughout the body to deliver healing.
Essential oils are added to carrier oil due to their extreme concentration. Only a very small quantity of pure essential oils are required to bring about the desired health related results.
Other related posts about what are Aromatherapy Oils can be found below:
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