A Brief History of Aromatherapy
We all have a friend who swears by the power of lavender and never leaves the house without a vial of peppermint oil. Aromatherapy has become popular in the last few decades thanks in part to the mainstream promotion of home scenting. More than a passive admiration for ambient fragrance, aromatherapy is an ancient medicinal art in which we use herbs, roots, flowers, and other plant-based raw materials to achieve mind and body wellness. It’s a practice that dates to long before its modern incarnation.
What is Aromatherapy?
Modern western medicine is a development that has come about within the last few hundred years. Of course, humans have been getting sick since the beginning of time. Before we had pills, we had plants. Over many millennia, scholars have used plants for varied purposes, recording their successful applications along the way. The task of pinpointing which natural materials can aid specific mental and physical ailments has taken thousands of years.
Early observations indicated the molecular composition of specific raw materials triggered healing reactions in our body’s systems. Researchers have spent eons linking plants’ biological properties to our internal body systems. Looking to make remedies more potent, experimenters put raw materials through extraction processes, resulting in essential oils. Extracted essential oils are highly condensed and contain all the properties of the raw material.
When we pick up a scent, tiny molecules of its origin substance are sucked up through our nostrils, hitting our olfactory bulb where it can enter the bloodstream. By merely inhaling the super tiny molecules of a material’s essential oil, we allow the beneficial properties to permeate the bloodstream and interact with the body’s systems. In this way, our sense of smell becomes the catalyst for systemic mind/body therapy.
While the term “aromatherapy” was coined in 1937 by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse after application of lavender oil helped the professional heal an infected burn, a true timeline is hard to pin down. We credit the Egyptians with the first extraction process, but they used the oils for embalming–not quite your modern wellness and restoration purpose!
The Chinese and the Greeks are credited as the first civilizations to use essential oils therapeutically. The Chinese used aromatic oils for mood enhancement, while Hippocrates, dubbed the Father of Medicine, is believed to have used oils for healing. Even Greek mythology suggests Greek societies believed the gods held knowledge of fragrance’s power.
From Whole Plant to Essential Oil: The Extraction Process
There are two ways to produce essential oils: distillation/expression or pressing. In pressing extractions, we squeeze the whole plant and collect the oil that seeps out. We then strain the oil of plant chunks and bottle it for use.
Distillation/expression is the most common extraction method. Steaming the plant breaks it down. The resulting solution is part water, part fragrant oil essence. Once cooled, the solution can be filtered. We can discard the water and bottle the remaining essential oil.
It takes a lot of raw material to make a little essential oil: about 60 whole roses will be needed to produce one drop of oil. As it’s highly condensed, however, each drop of essential oil is very potent. A single drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of roughly 30 cups of tea! While there are many ways to utilize essential oils, diffusion is the most common application in the United States.
The Science Behind an Ancient Practice
Think about your senses: each is designed to give your brain information about your environment. Taste, touch, sight, and sound are filtered through the nervous system for processing before they can provide useful information to our brains. Smell, considered to be both our most primitive and most advanced sense, is the brain’s direct link to the environment.
Located at the back of your nostrils, the olfactory bulb connects directly to your brain’s limbic system, which processes memories and emotions. This direct connection supplies immediate information to the brain, allowing it to act on instinct rather than learned processes. As we discussed, anything we smell is the result of tiny particles of that substance breaking off and entering our noses. When we take in essential oil particles, they travel the same route to reach and affect our body’s systems.
Practitioners have identified various healing properties within each essential oil, and they use these markers to assign beneficial uses. Some of these properties, such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics, are known in western medicine to promote targeted healing.
Multiple Properties, Multiple Applications, Multiple Benefits
Today, the list of essential oils is expansive. Professionals link multiple oils to the aid of the same ailment, and individual oils can provide relief for multiple ailments at once. Let’s look at peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender, some of the world’s most diversely-used essential oils.
Peppermint is recommended for headaches, sinus congestion, seasonal allergy relief, stress reduction, and energy boosts. Eucalyptus is also recommended for respiratory discomfort, including colds, sinus congestion, and asthma. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic that provides systemic immune system support. Lavender produces a calming effect that is ideal for stress and anxiety reduction. This anti-inflammatory supports blood circulation and aids in alleviating respiratory discomfort.
While impressive on their own, these purposes are not the exhaustive list of uses for any one of these popular essential oils. Explore the research on various essential oils and how they can be beneficial to you when used purposefully.
Quality Matters and Aromatherapy
If you know anything about chemistry, then you know additives change the composition of a solution. That’s why it’s so important to use 100% essential oils for therapeutic diffusion. Unfortunately, many essential oil producers cut costs by diluting their oils with synthetic compounds or even cheaper oils.
AromaTech’s essential oils are always pure, so you can be sure they are devoid of petrochemicals, GMOs, and any synthetic additive. We source responsibly from premium-quality materials around the world. As a result, our oils are hypoallergenic, pet-friendly, and do not cause build-up in your home or diffuser.
We recommend our range of cold-air diffusion systems for silent distribution of your therapeutic oil. As heat further breaks down your oil, cold-air diffusion preserves your oil’s potency. We have personal use, wall-mountable, free-standing, and AC diffusion systems available for quick and easy installation. Order today to start practicing time-honored natural healing for the mind and body.