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What is Aromatherapy?

By Kat Yares
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Aromatherapy is the use of fragrant essential oils and herbs to promote natural healing and health. The use of pleasing, scented herbs for their medicinal and spiritual properties has been recorded since ancient Egypt and Babylon. Egyptian pharaohs were embalmed using herb oils to purify their bodies for the afterlife, while Egyptian priests used oils and incense in their duties as healers.

Hippocrates, who is also known as the father of modern medicine, believed the use of herbs was essential to health. Many of his prescriptions include essential oils and fragrant crushed herbs. By the tenth century, books were being written in Arabia dedicated to the use and benefits of certain aromas.

The term 'aromatherapy' is attributed to a French cosmetic chemist names Rene Maurice Gattefosse. As he worked in his lab in the early 1920, he severely burned himself. In order to cool the pain, he plunged his arm into the only cold substance around, a vat of lavender essential oil. The burns healed rapidly, with little scarring and a new science was born. Gattefosse dedicated the remainder of his life to the study of aromatherapy, or the healing power of scented healing oils.

Modern research has indicated that certain essential oils and herbs do indeed have therapeutic and healing properties. Lavender is still used for burn victims and the scent is used widely to treat depression and anxiety.

Many aromatherapy essential oils are used for the benefits of their smell alone. Eucalyptus is an example of this as the scent of this plant is said to relieve chest congestion.

Other essential oils are used for their antibacterial, anti-fungal or anti-inflammatory properties. Tea Tree Oil is a time honored aromatherapy remedy for ringworm, athlete's foot and other fungal infections. Rosemary can be used to treat arthritis and muscle pain and is a stimulant that, used in the morning bath, is said to revive energy.

Many practitioners of aromatherapy believe there are ten essential oils that should be in all medicine cabinets. They are: Thyme, Chamomile, Rosemary, Lemon, Clove, Lavender, Tea Tree, Geranium, Peppermint and Eucalyptus.

Many grocery and drug stores carry essential oils, as well as all health food stores. Diffusers to distribute the scent of the oils are available in many super centers, malls and specialty outlets.

There are many books and websites devoted the use and benefits of aromatherapy.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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