The Art of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of plant-derived, aromatic essential oils to promote physical and psychological wellbeing.

Essential oils are extracted from the flower, fruit, leaf, seed, bark or root of a plant or tree and just one drop can have powerful health benefits. Essential oils are usually created through the process of distillation, which separates the oil and water based compounds of a plant by steaming.

Egyptian painting depicting perfume making

It was the Egyptians who first made extensive use of plants with distillation methods dating back 3,500 B.C. Essential oils were used as medicine, cosmetics and in the burial of rulers and pharaohs. Cleopatra, who was famous for her beauty, had the first spa near the Dead Sea where she used essential oils for her personal beauty treatments.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said that “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.”

The term “aromatherapy” was first used in the 1930’s by French chemist René Maurice Gattefossé who after an accident in his laboratory discovered that lavender oil relieves pain and assists minor burns in healing.

Essential oils contain naturally occurring chemical compounds that act in specific ways; some are stimulants or depressants, others have anti-inflammatory properties, still others are expectorants and diuretics. Many essential oils have antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, and even anti-carcinogenic properties.

In her book “Health through God’s Pharmacy”, published in 1980, Austrian Herbalist Maria Treben claims that “there is a plant for every illness.”

Nowadays, numerous studies and books are being published about the healing power of essential oils. Aromatherapy has become a fundamental component of alternative and holistic medicine.