October 2, 2017

AROMATHERAPY: HISTORY

The term Aromatherapy means the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes to improve health, heal the body and harmonize the spirit.

 

The sense of smell is the most powerful and instinctive of our senses. Through smell, or perfume, we recognize people, memories, places, essences….

The use of essential oils to harmonize the body, spirit and environment is a very ancient practice.

 

storia aromaterapia 2

From Mesopotamia to Persia, from China to India, from the heart of the Andes to the Aztec peoples, we have evidence of the knowledge and uses of medicinal plants for the care and well-being of people. 

 

In Egyptian tombs, jars were found containing oils for the deceased.  After millennia they had kept their fragrances intact. Solidified ointments, perfumes in bottles and cosmetics were part of the funeral items found by archaeologists. Papyrus and paintings that they passed on show the Ancient Egyptians used resins and aromatic plants to clean up the rooms where the most important ceremonies were held.  Ointments were used for the preservation of bodies after passing, for perfumes and cosmetics to increase seduction.

The Romans were famous for the use of essential oils for massages and baths. Not surprisingly, the term Lavandula officinalis derives from the Latin term “to wash”.

The father of medicine, Hippocrates, recommended massages with oils to invigorate the body and fumigations with aromatic plants to disinfect rooms and reduce possible contagion in cases of epidemics.  Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Galen are names of Greek scholars who applied the use of aromatic plants for the well-being and healing of their patients.

 

distillazione

During the Middle Ages, all the knowledge handed down by ancient peoples was preserved in the

Monasteries.  At the same time, the Arab physician-alchemist Avicenna, perfected a rudimentary distiller from the Egyptian design.  From here, the crusaders brought this technique to Europe and with the advent of the Renaissance, in the17th century, great herbalists such as N. Culpeper, J. Gerard, J. Parkinson described essential oils as an integral part of medicine.

 

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the development of chemistry which, on one hand, confirmed the properties and virtues of essential oils.  On the other hand, it led to the abandonment of the tradition by introducing synthetic molecules.
In 1937 the chemist René Maurice Gattefoss published a book entitled “Aromatherapie: Les huiles essentielles, hormones végétales” by coining from scratch the word that we all associate today with essential oils: Aromatherapy. He made a strong study of Lavender essential oil as a repairer for burns and injuries, following a curious accident that occurred to himself in his laboratory.

 Jean Valnet continued his studies of Gattefossè and deepened them by testing the antiseptic properties and anti-infective properties of various essential oils on patients injured in war.  And gradually until today, the research and study of medicinal plants and therefore of essential oils is in great development.

 
New oils with new properties are being introduced and tested and the growing popularity of natural medicines creates schools and courses to explore the wonderful world of essences, which are the soul of the plants.
Those who approach Aromatherapy discover that it can be a complete and natural help for rediscovering the well-being and harmony of one’s own being.
 

FRANCESCA SCALMANA

 

  

Other articles that may interest you:

Aromatherapy: how to choose an essential oil

Essential oil: Aromatherapy in the working environment

How to distill Mint