What is Aromatherapy?
In aromatherapy special liquid components of plants, known as essential oils are used to modify the patient’s health or emotional state.
Aromatherapy originated in France and is a part of mainstream medicine in that country, mostly being used for treatment of chronic infections and skin problems through several sessions.
A special diagnostic method, known as aromatogram is used to evaluate in advance the effectiveness of oil against the agents of the disease. French doctors hold that essential oils prevent further development of bacteria and help mobilize the patient’s immune system.
Aromatherapy is also used to improve the patient’s emotional state by inducing relaxation and reducing stress.
Outside of France, a more reserved approach to aromatherapy has been adopted, where it is seen primarily as complementary alternative therapy, having mostly psychological but not actually healing benefits, although antimicrobial qualities of essential oils are not disputed.
In aromatherapy, oils in their diluted form are either vaporized and inhaled or are applied directly to the skin. It is very important to use diluted oils in both cases, as concentrated essential oils can actually injure the patient.
As with many alternative medicine techniques, aromatherapy has a long history with its roots in ancient medicinal practices of the Chinese, Indian, Greek and Roman civilizations.
However, the term ‘aromatherapy’ was coined in the twentieth century by a French Chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. Gattefossé, initially involved in perfumery, became interested in healing properties of essential oil after a lab accident.
He had badly burned his hand during an experiment and by pure reflex dipped it into the nearest fluid he could find. The fluid turned out to be lavender essential oil. His hand healed unusually quickly and, most importantly – without a scar.
Gattefossé went on to explore the medicinal properties of essential oils and after writing some articles on the subject, in 1937 he published a books called Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales. The English translation is called “Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy”. The book is still in print.
The conditions aromatherapy is used to treat are varied: from headaches and migraines to flues and skin diseases. As was already mentioned, in France aromatherapy is part of mainstream medicine and it is a physician who usually prescribes treatments.
Outside of France aromatherapy is used in the context of other whole systems and is not always called by its own name. Alternative healthcare systems and complementary practices, which make use of essential oils and other aroma-based therapies include, among others: traditional Chinese medicine, ayurveda, naturopathy, and massage.
Professionals are still in discussion about the therapeutic value of aromatherapy. It is accepted, however, that aromatherapy has psychological therapeutic value, which, is important for the recovery and rehabilitation from disease. It is also effective as a complementary practice as long as administered by a professional, well reputed practitioner.