The art and science of aromatherapy has it roots in ancient civilizations dating back over 6,000 years ago. The Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans among many other cultures used aromatic plants for medicine, cosmetics, and culinary preparations. Manuscripts and literature denote the uses of substances thought to have both spiritual and therapeutic qualities. The qualities of aromatics were inclusive to acts of ceremony, healing, and cosmetology. Alters burned with sprigs of herbs to purify and to honor the gods. Unguent cones were placed on tops of the heads to beautify the hair and skin. Aromatic gums were employed as part of preserving the dead and preparing them for the afterlife. Oils were infused into baths, used for massage, and as a scent for the body.
Avicenna of Arabia was the first to distill rose essence around 1,000 A.D. Hippocrates the Father of modern medicine prescribed perfumed fumigations and fomentations for treating patients. Throughout the Renaissance period pharmacopeias were stocked with aromatic material to be sold as protection against major epidemics such as the plague.
The therapeutic value of aromatherapy was re-born around the time the term 'Aromathérapie' was first coined in 1937, by René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist and perfumer who wrote the book called 'Aromatherapie'. His book contains clinical findings using essential oils for physical ailments. It became evident that Gattefosse intended to distinguish the medicinal attributes from the perfumery applications. Other early pioneers of aromatherapy include Dr. Jean Valnet, (1920-1995), a French doctor and scientist who administered essential oil treatments for specific medical and psychiatric disorders. He was an army physician and surgeon. His theories are documented in various publications, books, and medical journals. He co-collaborated to create the term antibio-aromatogramme, which is the result of an experiment that proves the use of aromatic gases on a particular strain of bacteria that otherwise was treated with anti-biotics. Madame Maguerite Maury, (1895-1968), did scientific research and developed techniques to prove the effects of essential oils on the nervous system and how aromatherapy influenced people. She believed in taking care of oneself and having a positive outlook on life would allow for a more youthful state even at an older age. She opened aromatherapy clinics in Paris, Switzerland, and England and gave lectures throughout Europe illustrating her innovative massage techniques, knowledge of aromatherapy, and personal health approach to a better life.
Aromatherapy is still widely used today in food & flavoring, cosmetics, and health & wellness industries. It is important to understand the benefits of aromatherapy through various perspectives. The quality of essential oils, the sustainability and protection of plant communities and people involved in growing, distilling and manufacturing essential oils as well as the safety in regards to personal use are all serious topics that should be explored when buying aromatherapy products. Aromatherapy is free to all in its most natural state which can be as simple as smelling a flower, or the waft of fresh spices from a meal. If there are no synthetics, chemicals, or preservatives you are experiencing true aromatherapy.