What is Aromatherapy?

Kat Yares

Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant essential oils and herbs to promote natural healing and health. The use of pleasing, scented herbs for their medicinal and spiritual properties has been recorded since ancient Egypt and Babylon. Egyptian pharaohs were embalmed using herb oils to purify their bodies for the afterlife, while Egyptian priests used oils and incense in their duties as healers.

Oil made from cloves is considered one of the ten essential oils for aromatherapy.
Oil made from cloves is considered one of the ten essential oils for aromatherapy.

Hippocrates, who is also known as the father of modern medicine, believed the use of herbs was essential to health. Many of his prescriptions include essential oils and fragrant crushed herbs. By the tenth century, books were being written in Arabia dedicated to the use and benefits of certain aromas.

Aromatherapy lotion and a scented candle.
Aromatherapy lotion and a scented candle.

The term 'aromatherapy' is attributed to a French cosmetic chemist names Rene Maurice Gattefosse. As he worked in his lab in the early 1920, he severely burned himself. In order to cool the pain, he plunged his arm into the only cold substance around, a vat of lavender essential oil. The burns healed rapidly, with little scarring and a new science was born. Gattefosse dedicated the remainder of his life to the study of aromatherapy, or the healing power of scented healing oils.

Lavender is a common additive for aromatherapy.
Lavender is a common additive for aromatherapy.

Modern research has indicated that certain essential oils and herbs do indeed have therapeutic and healing properties. Lavender is still used for burn victims and the scent is used widely to treat depression and anxiety.

The scent of eucalyptus is said to relieve chest congestion.
The scent of eucalyptus is said to relieve chest congestion.

Many aromatherapy essential oils are used for the benefits of their smell alone. Eucalyptus is an example of this as the scent of this plant is said to relieve chest congestion.

Lemon essential oil is often used in aromatherapy and fragrances.
Lemon essential oil is often used in aromatherapy and fragrances.

Other essential oils are used for their antibacterial, anti-fungal or anti-inflammatory properties. Tea Tree Oil is a time honored aromatherapy remedy for ringworm, athlete's foot and other fungal infections. Rosemary can be used to treat arthritis and muscle pain and is a stimulant that, used in the morning bath, is said to revive energy.

Hippocrates often wrote prescriptions that called for herbs and essential oils.
Hippocrates often wrote prescriptions that called for herbs and essential oils.

Many practitioners of aromatherapy believe there are ten essential oils that should be in all medicine cabinets. They are: Thyme, Chamomile, Rosemary, Lemon, Clove, Lavender, Tea Tree, Geranium, Peppermint and Eucalyptus.

Peppermint oil is one of 10 essential oils that should be in every medicine cabinet.
Peppermint oil is one of 10 essential oils that should be in every medicine cabinet.

Many grocery and drug stores carry essential oils, as well as all health food stores. Diffusers to distribute the scent of the oils are available in many super centers, malls and specialty outlets.

Sandalwood is also used to make incense and other aromatic products.
Sandalwood is also used to make incense and other aromatic products.

There are many books and websites devoted the use and benefits of aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy may be used as part of a bubble bath.
Aromatherapy may be used as part of a bubble bath.
Tea Tree Oil is a time honored aromatherapy remedy for ringworm.
Tea Tree Oil is a time honored aromatherapy remedy for ringworm.

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