With origins dating back 5000 years, Aromatherapy is truly one of the oldest methods of holistic healing. 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.
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.
Essential oils are the highly concentrated essences of aromatic plants. Aromatherapy is the art of using these oils to promote healing of the body and the mind.
Each of the essential oils used in Aromatherapy can be used either alone or in combinations to create a desired effect. Before using essential oils as part of an Aromatherapy treatment, it is important to understand the effect that the oil(s) have, and how it works.
The oils are found in different parts of the plant such as the flowers, twigs, leaves and bark, or in the rind of fruit. For example, in roses it is found in the flowers, in basil it is in the leaves, in sandalwood in the wood, and so on.
The methods used to extract the oil are time consuming and expensive and require a high degree of expertise. Given that it takes in excess of 220 pounds of rose petals to produce only 4 or 5 teaspoonsful of oil, it is a process probably best left to professionals!
Due to the large quantity of plant material required, pure essential oils are expensive, but they are also highly effective - only a few drops at a time are required to achieve the desired effect.
Synthetic oils are available at a lesser price, but they simply do not have the healing power of the natural oils.
Check with your health care practitioner before self-administering any natural remedy.