skip to Main Content

Aromatherapy & Essential Oils | History, Benefits, and Precautions

Aromatherapy refers to the use of essential oils that have been extracted from the roots and leaves of plants, shrubs, and trees. These essential oils can be used for a wide variety of purposes. They can be used to treat medical conditions or alleviate psychological ailments to help improve your mood or to reduce your stress. Though termed as oil, essential oils normally do not have fatty constituents that define the properties of real oil.

A set of essential oil blends
Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

The History of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

I think it would be appropriate to start from the beginning and briefly go over where aromatherapy started, in case any of you don’t know. The art of aromatherapy had been practiced since the earliest times. Throughout history, medicinal and aromatic plants were used to purify rooms, scare away evil spirits, treat skin and other physical disorders, in the mummification process in ancient Egypt, and in Roman baths. Though strong evidence links essential oils to ancient traditions, the formal study on their properties only started in the year 1928.

Modern aromatherapy was actually identified in France by a man named Rene Maurice Gattefosse in the 1920’s. Gattefosse was a chemist and apparently so prone to getting burned in his lab he became somewhat of an authority on burns from his own personal experience. One day as Gattefosse lit his arm on fire in a panic he doused the flames in a vat of lavender oil. Gattefosse experienced immediate relief from the pain and in the days to come, the recovery process was extremely short with minimal scarring. Compared to the previous burns he had experienced he could not deny he was on to something. After the incident, Gattefosse dedicated his life to the study of aromatherapy.

Aromachology is the study of the effects of different aromas on human behavior. Certain aromas are believed to have relaxing effects on our mind and body. The practice of aromatherapy for treating ailments actually predates chemical-based medicine but nowadays the proven benefits of plant-based therapies are being overlooked in favor of artificial substitutes.

It’s easy to forget that many commonly used pharmaceuticals were originally derived from plants. Many also doubt that something applied externally could possibly have an internal effect. But the answer to many of today’s diseases has been with us from the beginning, stored in the plant life around us. Aromatherapy unlocks the power of these essential oils and applies it for our benefit.

Benefits of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy has various therapeutic properties like anti-septic, anesthetic, and psychological effects, as well as effects on the central nervous system and the metabolism. Some of the common ailments where aromatherapy treatment has been accepted as a potent solution are anxiety, stress or insomnia, muscular aches and pains, joint pains, headaches, eczema, digestive problems, menstrual or menopausal problems, respiratory issues.

Scents play a big role in our lives. Some fragrances may recall memories or transmit sensations. Who has not felt better after going to a sauna with eucalyptus smell? Or associated flowers’ scents to the feelings of calm and peace? Therefore, aromatherapy treatments heal physically as well as psychologically.

It’s important to stop using artificial products that contain harmful chemicals on your skin. Not only do they pollute your body, but they get into the environment and end up polluting the soil too. Aromatherapy blends are available in a wide variety, use them and give your body an opportunity to thank you.

Choosing the Right Essential Oil Blend

The question that may arise in your mind now might be how to choose the aromatherapy blend that will best satisfy your needs. In this case, you can consult any expert practitioner on the appropriate treatment for one’s condition. A person who practices aromatherapy treatment is known as an aromatherapist. They either will massage the oil on the skin or would suggest the appropriate method of use. Just as one would check the credentials of a doctor practicing in contemporary medicine, it is important to know whether the aromatherapist has been trained in aromatherapy treatment. An aromatherapist proceeds in the same manner as a common doctor. They will first get a detailed medical history of the individual through a series of questions on diet, lifestyle, and health problems. This goes well with the system of aromatherapy healing where the whole rather than one particular ailment is considered for treatment.

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), the organization that promotes and supports the practice of this method, there is no licensure or laws for aromatherapy in the US. NAHA determined that to become an aromatherapist, it’s necessary to be graduated in a course of at least 200 hours. Some professionals incorporate the training of this technique with their licensed work. This is the case for many massage therapists, acupuncturists, doctors and nurses.

In spite of the lack of formal research, therapists and European physicians are often prescribing certain oils for a range of complaints. In France, aromatherapy is a part of formal education in medical schools.

With the continuous advancement in technology, you can also make use of online sources who can help you in finding the appropriate aromatherapy blends.

Some of the most common essential oils are:

  • Calming – chamomile, lavender, geranium
  • Uplifting – ylang ylang, clary sage, rose, neroli, lemon, fennel
  • Energizing – rosemary, thyme (white), grapefruit, cinnamon
  • Cleansing – rosemary, tea tree, lavender, frankincense
  • Decongesting – eucalyptus, pine, tea tree, peppermint

Precautions to Consider

It must be understood that essential oils shouldn’t be taken orally and should be first tested to determine the degree of your skin’s sensitivity. Some essential oils like camphor, thuja, and red thyme have high toxicity levels, which can result in severe skin irritation. Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin. Instead, they should be diluted in a carrier oil or cream. It’s also suggested to do a patch test on the skin before committing to a certain oil. Some people can be very sensitive or have allergic reactions. Some oils, like lemon and verbena, when exposed to direct sunlight, may cause burning sensations.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils warns that pregnant patients or ones who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or epilepsy cannot be massaged with some essential oils. It is recommended that they inform the therapist about their condition.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top