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What is Aromatherapy?

What is Aromatherapy?

The practice of aromatherapy uses natural plant extracts, such as essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils, in a variety of ways to heal the body, mind and spirit. It is the promotion and harmonization of emotional, physical and spiritual health through the application of these extracts. Aromatherapy is described as both an art and a science because it takes the knowledge of the scientific aspects of the plants and oils and combines it with the art of producing a beneficial blend. Basically, a successful aromatherapy blend is a synergy of science, art, and the practitioner’s knowledge of both, and how to apply it. Aromatherapy can be used topically and via inhalation. 

Internal use of aromatherapy is essentially a branch of aromatic medicine and using aromatherapy this way is only advised by an experienced and qualified therapist, or by using products professionally formulated for internal use (e.g., capsules or tincture blends containing highly diluted essential oils).

Since time began, aromatic plants have been used in various ways to perfume and to heal. They have taken many forms such as infused oils, extracts, and distilled oils (although not necessarily in the way that we see essential oils distilled today). The ancient Egyptians revered scent in many forms, as a cosmetic, medicinal, and as part of their religious practice. The ancient Romans saw scent as a status symbol and much of Rome’s high society were known to use common plants such as lavender (Lavandula spp.) and rose (Rosa spp.) in everyday life. The Romans helped to spread the knowledge of aromatic plants throughout the Roman Empire to places such as Great Britain, which led to a wide use of aromatic plants during Medieval Europe.

However, the modern-day term of aromatherapy, or aromathérapie as it is known in French, was only devised by the French perfumer and chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé in 1937. Gattefossé is most well-known for the incident in which he accidently burned his hand in his laboratory and plunged it a vat of lavender. To his surprise, his hand healed and did not bear the scarring he feared, if the hand had been left untreated.

Today the practice of aromatherapy incorporates the use of essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils for holistic healing. Aromatic oils and water are used for their therapeutic properties to heal the mind, body and spirit, returning the body to a state of equilibrium.

Aromatherapy is part of a larger field called phytotherapy (plant therapy). True aromatherapy is the skilled use of genuine essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Science, education and experience allow aromatherapy to truly become a holistic art.

Annette Davis, NAHA President

Aromatherapy is... the skilled and controlled use of essential oils for physical and emotional health and well being.

Valerie Cooksley

Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul.

Robert Tisserand

Aromatherapy can be defined as the controlled use of essential oils to maintain and promote physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing.

Gabriel Mojay

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