Monday, December 29, 2008

History of Aromatherapy


HISTORY OF AROMATHERAPY

With origins dating back over 5000 years, Aromatherapy is truly one of the oldest methods of holistic healing.

In the Beginning:
Ancient man was dependent on his surroundings for everything from food, to shelter and clothing. Being so keenly aware of everything around him, and how it could be used for survival, he quickly discovered methods to preserve food and treat ailments through herbs and aromatics.
Aromatherapy, as it is practiced today, began with the Egyptians, who used the method of infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants which were used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes as well as embalming.
At a similar time, ancient Chinese civilizations were also using some form of aromatics. Shen Nung's herbal book (dating back to approximately 2700 BC) contains detailed information on over 300 plants and their uses.
SImilarly, the Chinese used aromatics in religious ceremonies, by burning woods and incense to show respect to their Gods - a tradition which is still practiced today. The use of aromatics in China was linked to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure.
Aromatherapy has also been used for many centuries in India. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, uses dried and fresh herbs, as well as aromatic massage as important aspects of treatment.
The Greeks acquired most of their medical knowledge from the Egyptians and used it to further their own discoveries. They found that the fragrance of some flowers was stimulating while others had relaxing properties. The use of olive oil as the base oil absorbed the aroma from the herbs or flowers and the perfumed oil was then used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known for scented baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. The popularity of aromatics led to the establishment of trade routes which allowed the Romans to import "exotic" oils and spices from distant lands such as India and Arabia.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the use of aromatics faded and the knowledge of their use was virtually lost in Europe during the dark ages.


More History on AROMATHERAPY
The humble beginning of Aromatherapy, which literally means therapy of healing through the sense of smell.

Aromatherapy dates back thousands of years and has been used by most of the ancient civilizations. Most of the stories of 'the medicine man' were of professionals schooled in the use of essential oils.

The Chinese civilizations used some form of aromatics dating back to 2700 BC. These historical references contain detailed information on over 300 plants and their uses.
The Chinese also used aromatics in religious ceremonies, a tradition which is still practiced today. The Chinese were also involved in other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure, hence the term eastern medicine.

Aromatherapy has also been used for many centuries in India. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, uses dried and fresh herbs, as well as aromatic massage as important aspects of treatment.

In ancient Egypt, aromatherapy was a way of life. The essential oils of plants were used during religious rituals raising a higher consciousness or promoting a state of tranquility. Egyptians used the principles of this art in their cooking as well. Specific herbs aided in the digestive process, protected against infection and improving the immune system.

The Greeks acquired most of their medical knowledge from the Egyptians and used it to further their own discoveries. Hypocrites commonly known as the "Father of Medicine" was the first to study this scientifically. The Greeks found that some fragrances were stimulating while others had relaxing properties. Aromatherapy was used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known for scented baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. With the decline of the Roman Empire, the use of aromatics faded and the knowledge of their use were virtually lost.

One of the few places where the tradition of Aromatherapy continued was in monasteries, where monks used plants from herbal gardens to produce infused oils, herbal teas and medicines. During the Middle Ages, it was discovered that certain aromatic derivatives helped to prevent the spread of infection.

The revival of the use of essential oils is credited to a Persian physician and philosopher known as Avicenna. The Persians initiated a method of extraction known as distillation, and study of the therapeutic use of plants once again became popular. The knowledge of distillation spread and the lost process was once again returned to Europe. By 1200 AD, essential oils were being produced in Germany and were based mainly on herbs and spices brought from Africa and the Far East.

When the conquistadors invaded South America, even more medicinal plants and aromatic oils were discovered, and the wide variety of medicinal plants found in Montezuma's gardens provided a basis for many new and important remedies and treatments.

Throughout the northern continent, Native American Indians were using aromatic oils and producing their own herbal remedies, which were discovered when settlers began to make their way across the plains of the New World.



Although herbs and aromatics had been used in other world cultures for many centuries, it was not until the 19th century that scientists in Europe and Great Britain began researching the effects of essential oils on humans. It was French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse who discovered the healing powers of lavender oil after burning his hand in his laboratory. He published a book on the anti-microbial effects of the oils in 1937 and the term "Aromatherapy" was born.

The discovery of Penicillin and creation of synthetic drugs has conditioned modern society to readily accept instant cures. In many medical circles, aromatherapy and holistics as a whole are considered "soft" sciences, because cures are less speedy and are difficult to prove scientifically. The proof of the effectiveness of aromatherapy lies in our ancestors, who survived throughout the ages in this hard world equipped with only a natural instincts.

During World War II, the French army surgeon Dr. Jean Valnet used essential oils as antiseptics. Later, Madame Marguerite Maury elevated aromatherapy as a holistic therapy. She started prescribing essential oils as remedy for her patients. She is also credited with the modern use of essential oils in massage. Aromatherapy works the best when used on the mind and body simultaneously.

Even after reading the history of aromatherapy many westerners remain skeptical of this science. Only after they consider the modern uses of aromatherapy do they say “Oh, I get it.”

Some of the more common and mainstream examples of aromatherapy include:

Mentholated vapor rub (to loosen congestion in the chest and breathing passages)
Spa treatments such as the use of Eucalyptus especially in a steam room
Perfumes, Colognes, deodorizers and room fresheners

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