What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy comes from the word “aromatherapie,” which French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse coined in the early 1900s to mean the therapeutic use of aromatic substances.
Today, the word aromatherapy can be said to mean the scientific and artistic use of aromatic essences extracted from plants for use in promoting the health of the body, mind and spirit.
These essential oils are extracted from flowers, seeds, roots, leaves, fruits, nuts, berries, gum, grasses, wood and bark of individual plants and are used in skilled and controlled environments to produce the many aromatherapy products.
Throughout the decades, dating from before the Roman Empire, the specific properties of many essential oils have been identified as to their physical, mental and emotional beneficial effects on humans.
These essentials oils are the one required ingredient for all aromatherapy products, although there are varying methods for using essential oils.
Essential oils are liquids—micro droplets—produced in small glands of certain plants. The plant diffuses this liquid through the walls of the glands, and the fragrant droplets spread over the surface of the plant and evaporate, perfuming the air surrounding them. There are hundreds of thousands of plants, but essential oils have only been identified thus far in a few thousand. Essential oils are used in three primary ways: as odorants, or inhalants; as flavours; and as pharmaceuticals.
What is aromatherapy?
If you have ever inhaled the intoxicating smells wafting from a herb or flower garden on a warm summer day, you've been exposed to aromatherapy. If you've taken pleasure from the crisp and tangy scents exploding from an orange or lemon as you peeled it, you've been exposed to aromatherapy. If you've ever caught a whiff of an intriguing perfume that has exotic sandalwood oil as an ingredient, or experienced a stress-releasing massage with sandalwood oil, you've been exposed to aromatherapy.
These wonderful therapeutic aromas are coming from the plants essential oils—the potent and aromatic substance found in the flowers, seeds, leaves, roots, leaves, fruits, nuts, berries, gum, grasses, wood and bark of individual plants.
Wikipedia describes what is aromatherapy here
What is aromatherapy useful for
Aromatherapy is useful for its healing powers—through inhalation and topical application. The essential oils, the “essence” of the plant’s healing powers, paves the way for the transfer of the nutrients and powers of the plant to enter various cells of our bodies. Aromatherapy, then, can be defined as a “fragrant remedy.” These healing essences can be used to treat ailments and disease, to heal us physically and emotionally.
A Brief History of What is Aromatherapy
Although it was not called “aromatherapy” until recent history, man’s knowledge and relationship with the special beneficial qualities of certain plants began centuries ago. References regarding the properties and uses of essential oils have been discovered in manuscripts from China, India and Egypt dating as far back as 2,800 B.C.
Most of these precious substances were rare, and therefore, expensive. Used for healing and for cosmetic and ceremonial purposes, they were only obtainable by the upper class—those residing in the Royal Courts and Temples.
The location of the sources of these essential oils was often a carefully guarded secret, as was the methods of extraction used to obtain the precious essential oils.
What is Aromatherapy and the Roman Empire
Aromatherapy was a highly practised art during the Roman Empire. The people of Rome used aromatic essential oils to scent their bodies and hair. The wealthy made use of the essential oils with frequent massage and in their baths. In the famous Roman Public Baths, walls were filled with shelves which held rows containing pots and jars filled with fragrant essential oils.
During this time, the Romans made use of many herbs and essential oils in their daily lives. Roman Emperors often wore sprigs of bay around their heads to ward off evil spirits and as a sign of wealth.
Roman soldiers took myrrh with them into battle to be applied to wounds as a healing agent. Fennel sweetened the breaths of Romans, gave them strength, kept away evil spirits and killed fleas. Rose essential oil scented baths and perfumed both men and women. Roses were made into garlands to wear around women’s heads; rose petals carpeted floors.
But lavender was perhaps the most widely used plant by the Romans, who also introduced this treasured plant to Europe. Coming from the Latin word “lavare,” which means to wash, lavender was the most prized aromatic for bathing, as well as many other uses.
The doctors of the Roman Empire era made good use of the herbs and essential oils—these were their medicines. One Greek doctor, Galen, in particular, became well-known for his medical procedures and discoveries of “medicines.” These were the early pioneers answering the question of what is aromatherapy.
Galen ran his own pharmacy and stocked it with medicines that he had made from plant extracts. He recorded his recipes for various remedies along with the correct dosage to treat different ailments. During his career, Galen was chief physician to the gladiator school in the ancient Greek city of Pergamum. It is said that while he attended the gladiators, not one died as a result of his wounds.
Another man credited with advancing the study what is aromatherapy and knowledge of the beneficial uses of plants was Crateuas, who was physician to Mithradates VI, king of Pontus in ancient Turkey. Crateuas was an artist and pharmacologist as well as a physician. His botanical drawings are the earliest known illustrations of plants. He was a big contributor to answering the question "What is aromatherapy".
Copies of those drawings were made in about A.D. 500 and still exist today. The text in his book, which classified the plants and noted their medicinal uses, was lost, but quotations from it was later recorded by another Greek physician, Pedanius Dioscorides (AD 40—AD 90). Crateuas’ work greatly influenced all later medicine practices and pharmacology.
Dioscorides was a physician during the reign of Nero. He became well-known and respected for his five books on “the preparation, properties and testing of drugs.” The collection was named De material medica, and was the main pharmacological reference in use for the next sixteen centuries. Dioscorides travelled with the Roman army as a surgeon and was privileged to have the opportunity to discover and study the medicinal properties of many plants. Included in his series of books are excellent descriptions of nearly 600 plants. His Greek manuscript was copied in at least seven other languages and served as the primary text of pharmacology until the end of the 15th century.
Distillation, the primary method for extracting essential oils from plants, was introduced in Europe during the twelfth century, and the use of this process spread into other continents. The knowledge and practice of distillation enabled the use of more, previously unobtainable, plant essences.
The study and practice of what is aromatherapy has advanced tremendously in modern times. Extraction methods for obtaining the valuable essential oils from plants have improved throughout the decades and the beneficial aspects of certain plants have been identified and recorded. Study materials are readily available to enhance the learning process and to guide the practitioner in the uses and benefits of aromatherapy.
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