Do you ever stop to smell a beautiful flower just to enjoy its scent? If you do what you are experiencing is the natural occurring volatile aromatic compounds called essential oils.
Since ancient times, and as near as we can tell, from the beginning of recorded history the plant kingdom has provided rare and powerful extracts and essences that have long been prized for their beauty enhancing, medicinal, spiritual, aromatic and therapeutic value.
The earliest essential oils usage evidence occurs in the period of 3000-2500 B.C. with the
ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations, it’s therefore considered one of the oldest medicine and cosmetic practices. By extracting essential oils from plants, the Egyptians manufactured ointments that were amazingly effective. Essential oils were also used for culinary, perfumes, spiritual and cosmetic purposes, and for embalming the dead.
Greeks, Romans, and later on the Arabs, also understood the amazing properties of aromatic plants and improved the knowledge acquired through the centuries. The distillation process for extracting from plants is attributed to the Arabian alchemist Avicena (980–1037) who is considered the pioneer in developing this methodology.
In modern civilization, the powerful healing properties of essential oils were rediscovered in 1910 by Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French cosmetic chemist who severely burned his hands and arms in an accidental lab explosion. As the story goes, he submerged his burns in a large container of lavender oil and reported the miraculous recovering of the tissue that began the very next day. Although he previously had no interest in natural healing methods, the astonishing burn experience compelled him to investigate the medical uses of essential oils by treating soldiers in military hospitals during World War I. He coined the term “aromatherapie” in 1920’s-1930’s – the treatment of disease and injury using aromatic essential oils.
Dr. Jean Valnet, a Parisian physician, who was also a colleague of Gattefosse’s, successfully
experimented the use of essential oils in Indochina war from 1948-1959 for treating war wounded soldiers when, for his desperation, he ran out of his supply of antibiotics. He was impressed to see how efficiently the essential oils fought infection.
When the war was over, he continued studying and experimenting with essential oils in his practice and, publishing his work “The Practice of Aromatherapy” in 1964, which earned him global recognition and provided material for further studies and discoveries.
Today the applications of essential oils keep on expanding as scientists and health professionals continue researching and validating their countless benefits for the health and well-being. In France, Germany and England, it’s common for doctors to offer a choice when prescribing remedies for a specific health condition. Patients can choose either prescription medicines or natural essential oils. Both are distributed through pharmacies across Europe.
Essential oils have not only stood the test of time, they have proven their efficacy and effectiveness on every level. Tradition and historical records provide proven insights and understanding of how essential oils were used in the past, and how they can benefit our lives today.
Aromatherapy today has become a more natural less invasive alternative and a powerful bridge to link cultural knowledge, modalities and health care professionals. Nature is still the best physician.