The use of fragrant extracts of plants for health and healing was recorded in ancient Persia as early as the 11th century. Aromatics were used in a variety of ways in the early civilizations of Rome, Egypt, China and India. Modern day interest in aromatherapy began in the 1920’s with the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who researched the therapeutic properties of oils.
Aromatherapy uses the concentrated oils of plants to improve health and enhance well-being. The essential oils used for aromatherapy are extracted from tiny glands in the leaves, stems, petals, bark, seeds and roots of a variety of trees and plants. There are about three hundred essential oils, each with its own distinctive fragrance. Essential oils are used in the cosmetic, perfumery, pharmaceutical and the food industries. However aromatherapists usually rely on the therapeutic properties of around thirty to forty oils for treating most common conditions, using them either singly or in combinations.
Essential oils are used to assist in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments and are suitable for almost all ages. Aromatherapy can help treat conditions ranging from insomnia and those ‘down-and-out’ days, to acne and headaches. It is especially useful for stress related disorders, muscular and rheumatic conditions, skin and digestive complaints and women’s difficulties such as PMS as well as menopause and post natal problems. It is quite effective for chronic conditions. Some oils are stimulating and invigorating whilst others are calming and relaxing. Others tone and regulate the body and a large group of oils have antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities and are especially useful for treating common illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu. As well as their healing properties, the oils are also used for beauty and pleasure.
Essential oils can be inhaled, diluted and applied to the skin or added to water. Essential oils can be used in oil burners, in baths and showers, in inhalations and for massage where the essential oils are diluted with vegetable oils. The oils are also used in cosmetics and in humidifiers, compresses and light globe rings.
Make sure the practitioner has recognised qualifications in aromatherapy. Some therapeutic massage centers specialize in aromatherapy. Additionally, courses and workshops are available, offering training in aromatherapy skills for use at home.