Aromatherapy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Aromatherapy can be traced back to Ancient Egypt over five thousand years ago. They were the first to extract oils from plants and use it for cosmetic and medical purposes. The Egyptians became so good at using the surroundings flora and fauna; they even invented embalming techniques that can’t be reproduced to this day.

At around the same time, the Chinese began to also create and utilize aromatherapy however, not for cosmetics or medicinal use. They use it, incense and burning woods in their religious ceremonies.

The Greeks learned most of their medical technology from the Egyptians so they too began to use aromatherapy, followed by the Romans. They adopted the use of aromatherapy to create luxurious scented baths and massage therapy using scented oils imported from around the world.

When the Dark ages descended on Europe, anything involving aromatherapy was looked upon with superstition. But somewhat surprisingly, the monks continued to use it for incense in their monasteries.

When the New Worlds settlers came to America, they were surprised to discover that the Indians had been using aromatherapy in the form of aromatic oils, as well as smoke for many years.

French perfume chemist Rene Maurice of Gattefosse burned his hand in the 1930’s. His hand had third degree burns and in his haste to alleviate the pain, he dunked his hand into a vat of lavender, thinking it was water. His arm healed with no scarring, and in 1937 he wrote a book on the anti-microbial effects of aromatic oils. It was from this book that we get the name aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is the using of essential oils to soothe the body and mind with the use of fragrances. We take the essential oils from plants such as flowers, roots, seeds, barks and resin. Once extracted from the plants, the oils can be used in pure form, or diluted using oils until the desired effect is achieved.

These essential oils travel through the bloodstream, reacting with the body’s natural enzymes and hormones. When breathed in, the nerve ends in the nose transmit signals to the brain which reacts by inducing pleasant memories, and relaxation.

Many oils have medicinal properties that can help the body fight viral infections, inflammations and aches and pains. It can also help people who suffer from stress, post partum discomfort, and impotence.

Today, many of the oils are made synthetically. When blended properly, the oils work to both consciously and sub consciously relax the recipient, and helps the body fight some ailments.
  • Aromatherapy can be used externally using the methods of massage and aromatic baths. With this method the subject is taking in the healing properties through the skin. The essential oils can be added directly to bath water, or dissolved into a tube of Epsom salts.
  • By using oil diffusers, potpourri, cookers, vaporizers, soaking cotton balls or inhaling the scent directly from the bottle. It has also been suggested that you could spray oil compounds into the air. Simply add ten drops of a preferred essence into seven drops of water. Shake and spray into the air.
There are many different properties assigned to different oils. Here are a few of the most popular and highly used ones.
  • Lavender oils are said to heal burns, cuts, kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, cure headaches, soothe bug bites, lower blood pressure, muscle aches and menstrual cramps.
  • Sandal wood oil is said to promote relaxation.
  • Tea tree oil fights fungus, yeast, bacterial infections, bladder infections, thrush and vaginitis.
  • Eucalyptus oil reduces fever, clears sinuses, acts as a cough depressant and helps with boils and pimples.
  • Rosemary oil relieves pain, increases circulation, reduces swelling and relieves depression. It is also sometimes used to treat gas and liver problems.
  • Thyme oil relieves laryngitis, coughing, bladder and skin infections. It also helps to reduce joint pain.
Medical researches have been unable to pinpoint exactly why the oils described above have these effects when used. Research has just begun to look into how the chemistry of the oils works on a scientific level.

For now they are baffled, but millions of people around the world continue to prosper from the effects of aromatherapy.