Dim lighting, a room filled with exciting smells, a deep inhalation coming from the treatment bench – suddenly the body becomes relaxed and soothed. Which leaves the question – why is aromatheraphy so effective?
To understand the many effects of aromatherapy it is important to look back on the origin of this type of treatment, not to mention its values and purposes. The very concept of “aromatherapy” first emerged in 1937, when the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse invented the word after a incident with fire. Gattefosse accidently burned his hand and on impulse he put it in a bowl of lavender oil, he was astonished by the oils ability to heal the skin and wrote a book about essential oils and their healing effects. The very practice of this type of therapy goes much further back in time, unfortunatley there is little knowledge of the actual origin of aromatherapy – however this is know for sure; Greece, China, India and ancient Egypt all used the doctrine of fragrance for healing purposes.
Both China and India have a long history of using plants and herbs as medicine, for instance; Chinese doctors used sandalwood to treat chlorea. The earliest recording of on the use of aroma for healing purposes, called the “Yellow Emperors Book of Internal Medicine” dates back more than 2000 years BC. Chinese medicine is still used today worldwide and ranges from herbalism to Shiatsu. Tradtional Indan herbal medicine – Ayuverdic medicine – is aimed at treating the whole body – physically, mentally and spiritually. History shows us that India used Sandalwood to, among other things, heal wounds, jasmine as a general tonic for the body, chamomille was given for dizziness, colds and headaches, while rose was considered an antidepressant. Interesting to know is that many of the properties attributed to herbs and essential oils of the ancient writings are considered valid to this day.
Many ancient cultures recognized the physical and psychological benefits of fragrant ointments and oils. Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, maintained 2500 years ago that; “The key to good health rests on having a daily aromatic bath and a subsequent fragrant massage”. Some of the plant materials Discorides wrote about in its Materia Medica 100 AC include many herbs and essential oils we use to this day – including cardamom, cinnamon, basil, fennel, myrrh, laurel, incense, rose, rosemary and thyme. Fragrances and ointments were recognized to greatly benefit both at the physical and psychological level. Laurel was used to create a trance-like state, rose, mint and coriander were respected for their aphrodisiac properties, while myrrh and merian were used as tranquilizers.
How does it work?
Inhalation of aromatic molecules affects us on a number of levels – physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Molecules pass the nasal passages where they stimulate and trigger nerve messages to the limbic part of the brain. The limbic system affects your emotions, your memory, learning ability, appetit and sex drive. Inhalation of essential oils affects various bodily reactions such as breathing patterns, blood pressure and heart rate.
The effect of stress in daily life, often referred to as depression, anxiety and irritability, is a treatment area where aromatherapy has great success, especially in combination with massage.
Thus, a wide variety of mental and physical issues can be treated with aromatherapy, wether it relieves pain, improves focus, promotes better sleeping patterns or helps with digestion.
Are you a little tempted to try it out perhaps? I would recommend using a certified aromatherapist, for the best experience.