Benefits of Aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that treats the mind, body and spirit. When essential oils are applied to the body during a massage, the essential oils enter the skin through the hair follicles where they are absorbed in to the blood stream and circulated around the body.
Aromatherapy has many benefits to the person being treated and can:
Enhance mood and general feeling of well-being through massage and the use of essential oils.
Improve blood and lymphatic circulation through massage and the use of essential oils. Depending upon the essential oils used the blood vessels will either constrict or dilate thereby raising or lowering blood pressure.
Balance the hormone production by the endocrine system. Essential oils such as clary sage can mimic oestrogen.
Strengthen the immune system by helping to kill viruses, bacteria and fungal infections.
Encourage restful sleep.
Aromatherapy dates back to prehistoric times when Juniper berries were used as an antiseptic and to flavor food. Evidence shows that plants and herbs for medicinal, culinary and cosmetic purposes have been used by civilisations throughout for centuries.
The Egyptians used plant resins and oils during the mummification process. Myrrh was used during the embalming process and jars of Frankincense have also been found in tombs. They also used a number of fragrant oils for cosmetics and rituals. The Kyphi incense included fragrant oils such as, Juniper, Frankincense, Myrrh, Lemongrass and Cardamom. Frankincense, benzoin and myrrh were regarded so highly that in some cases they were considered more valuable than gold.
The Ancient Greeks
The ancient Greeks obtained much of their knowledge on the use of plants in medicine from the Egyptians. The Greek physician Hippocrates used chamomile as a way of reducing fever and recommended daily massage with aromatic herbs for general good health. Another Greek physician Galen recommended the use of cypress to ease stomach complaints.
The Medieval Period
During the Medieval period a Persian physician and philosopher Avicenna discovered the process of distillation. Not only is he acknowledged as contributing a great deal to both past and present medicine but he documented detailed instructions on massage and how to use plants and essential oils to aid good health.
Essential oils were an important part of Roman culture and were used to fragrance public baths.
China and India
Both China and India have a long history of using plants and herbs as medicine. Chinese physicians used sandalwood to treat cholera and courtiers held clove buds in their mouth when addressing the Chinese emperor to ensure their breath was sweet. The earliest record the Yellow Emperors Book of Internal Medicine dates back more than 2000 years B.C. Chinese medicine is still used today throughout the world ranging from Herbalism to Shiatsu. Traditional Indian herbal medicine - Ayurvedic medicine is aimed at treating the whole body - body, mind and spirit. History shows us that India used sandalwood to heal wounds and it was also burned for exorcism rites.
European knights returning from the Crusades brought back information and the benefits of using plants and herbs to treat ailments. People began to experiment and use plants as remedies. Bergamot was used in Italian folk medicine and in England frankincense and benzoin was used to make Friar's Balsam for respiratory and skin conditions.
During the Middle Ages people protected themselves against infections by wearing herbal bouquets known as "tussy-mussies" and threw herbs on the floor to not only ward off infection but perfume their homes.
Herbal remedies and essential oils were classed as the medicine of the people as the women of the household would make these remedies for their families.
In 1649, the English physician Nicholas Culpeper published his herbal that became a standard reference for plant remedies. Later during the Great Plague, physicians, and apothecaries wore masks filled with herbs and spices to protect then from the disease.
In the 18th Century apothecaries started to add essential oils to there herbal remedies and eau de Cologne was invented containg rosemary, bergamot, neroli and lavender essential oils.
Bridal headdresses in Victorian England were made of neroli blossom to calm the brides nerves and also represent purity.
In 1910, a French chemist and perfumier Rene Maurice Gattefosse was working in his laboratory when he burnt his hand and stuck it in a vat of lavender oil and rediscovered the healing properties of lavender oil. Following this Gattefosse went on to treat soldiers with essential oils in military hospitals during World War 1. He began to research and experiment using essential oils and reported his findings in a scientific paper in 1928. This is where the term "Aromatherapy" was first used.
Another scientist Dr Jean Valnet continued the research into the antiseptic and healing properties of essential oils by using the oils to treat battle wounds during the Indochina War. Valnet's work established aromatherapy as a therapy.
An Austrian biochemist, Marguerite Maury followed the work of Valnet and discovered that when she applied the essential oils to the skin, the oils were absorbed. Maury brought massage treatments using essential oils to the UK and in 1961 the Secret of Life and Youth was published that pioneered the modern use of essential oils in massage.
She set up her own aromatherapy practices to train people and her students then went on to set up their own and so the use of essential oils in massage grew and aromatherapy as we know it was born.