Translated literally, “aromatherapy” means the use of aromas for their healing properties. We use aromatherapy to aid in the restoration of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health through the application of essential oils.
According to Shirley Price, a respected authority on aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is the controlled use of essential oils to promote the health and vitality of the body, mind and spirit by inhalation, baths, compresses, topical application and full-body message.
An essential oil is produced by the distillation or expression of some part of a single plant species. There are many different parts of a plant that can be used. For example Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil is distilled from the flowers of the plant. Sandalwood (Santalum album) is steam distilled from the heartwood of the tree. Vetiver (Vetivera zizanoides), which happens to be one of my favorite essential oils, comes from the root of the plant. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is distilled from the leaves and flowers. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is expressed from the rind of the fruit. All essential oils have certain traits in common. Essential oils contain the essence of a single plant.
Essential oils are volatile which means they easily evaporate into the air. The lighter the molecule is the easier it disseminates into the air. Essential oils for the most part do not feel oily, and they are not soluble in water.
Brief History of Aromatherapy:
The history of aromatherapy dates back over six thousand years. Some believe the Chinese were the first to use aromatherapy by burning incense five thousand years ago. Some believe it was the Egyptians who first began using essential oils during the embalming process of the Pharaohs and their families around 4500 BC.
There is proof in the powerful benefits of essential oils when we consider that when the ancient Egyptian tombs had been unearthed some of the mummies had been found to have fragments of their intestinal tracts completely intact despite being over a thousand year old. It is fascinating that in 1922 AD when the tomb of King Tut was opened they found 50 alabaster jars that were designed to hold 350 liters of the valuable plant essences, even more amazing is that some of the jars still contained traces of the essential oils. Another interesting fact is that essential oils were considered so valuable that when the some of the tombs were broken into, thieves stole the oils and left behind gold and jewels.
Wether you believe the use of essential oils began in Egypt or China one thing is clear, the use of essential oils has undeniable benefits that mankind has been been using for thousands of years.
In Rome essential oils were used by Galen on the gladiators to treat their wounds. It is said that not a single gladiator died as a result of battle wounds under Galen’s care.
The burning of incense has been done for thousands of years by many different cultures during religious ceremonies. The term “perfume” originates from the latin “per fumum” which translates to “through smoke” Some believe the burning of incense was done to communicate with, and please the gods. Others believe it was to cover up the unpleasant odors from flesh sacrifices to the gods. We still use incense today across many culture during many different religious rituals, and also purely for aromatic enhancement.
The term “essence” was first used by an alchemist named Paracelsus. He described the essential oils as the “blood” of the plants. Another name in the history of essential oils is a french chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who burned himself while in the lab discovered the healing properties of lavender purely by mistake. The fact that his hand healed so quickly after he plunged his hand into a container of lavender is what prompted him to research the healing properties of lavender and other essential oils.
Many other scientists and researchers have since followed in Rene-Maurice Gattefosse’s footsteps compiling their own research into the healing properties of essential oils. Because of this research what may have started out, historically as religious or customary practices, now has evidenced based scientific proof to back up the therapeutic properties of essential oils.
What started out as an accident in a lab, lead to more and more scientific experimentation and research into these plant “essences”. In the essential oil world of today we know the science behind “why” they work the way they do. For Example we know that ketones are the constituent responsible for the healing properties of essential oils. We know that acids such as benzoic acid are anti-inflammatory. Because of scientific research we know “why” essential oils work the way they do. Thanks to this research the use of essential oils in therapeutic healing is no longer just a belief or a religious practice, it is scientific fact.
It is evident throughout history that essential oils have been an important part of medicine and daily life dating back to the very early days of civilization. Virtually every culture throughout history has been known to use “plant medicine”.
One interesting fact that makes using essential oils in natural home remedies preferable for many, besides the fact that EO’s are “natural”, is the fact that as viruses, fungi, and bacterial invaders evolve (sometimes into super-bugs like MRSA and VRE) so do the plants. The plants must evolve to fight off those invaders as well. Because of this natural plant evolution, managing the symptoms of an illness can many times be more effective with essential oils than with synthetic drugs which are produced in a lab using the exact same chemical composition each time.
The distillation process has been refined since the early days of the Egyptian by the Persians, and has been even more significantly improved since then. Even though some people may be unaware of their presence in the products they use everyday, one thing is clear, essential oils have an important impact on everyones lives.
The use of essential oils is one of the things that has helped Brady to the point that I would not think of going a day without using them as part of Brady’s daily routine.
When I buy oils I only buy from 3 companies. Most often whenever I need something I order from Natures Gift. It is run by Marge Clark who is well-known in aromatherapy circles. She obtains all of her oils directly from the distillers, and I trust that the oils are pure and unadulterated.
The next company I trust is my college program store: The Apothecary Shoppe. Nearly all of their oils are certified organic.
Finally for a lower cost oil that I use only for cleaning (not for use with Brady) is Aura Cacia. Aura Cacia is the ONLY lower priced oil I use, and I only use it in my homemade cleaning products.
I would not suggest using ANY other low or discount priced oils. This is one case where you definitely get what you pay for.
There are a couple other companies I have tried and found them to be trustworthy for pure oils, but the ones above are my personal favorites.
There are also a few companies I would never trust for oils, so please be very cautious where you get your oils from. Make sure you know where the oils come from.
To check out some of the aromatherapy products I have used, CLICK HERE.
Dorene Petersen, BA, Dip.NT, Dip.Acu, RH (AHG) (1986-2014) “Introduction to Aromatherapy”, 29-31
Dorene Petersen, BA, Dip.NT, Dip.Acu, RH (AHG) (1986-2014) “Aromatherapy I” 24-26
Price, S., & Price, L. (2000). Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone, 268