This sense is an early warning mechanism which protects us against harmful or unpleasant substances. It is a fact that scent is so vital to our survival. The millions of scent-detecting nerve-ending cells in our nose are renewed every 28 days which is equivalent to a full lunar cycle. This is the natural rhythm of life. Today, we continue to love to practice aromatherapy, just as our ancestors did in an age-old tradition. The history of aromatherapy begins way back in biblical times.
Earliest records of the use of aromatics are of their religious significance, these oils being used for anointing, incense for burning and waters for washing both priests and altars. The wise men gave gifts of the exquisitely perfumed resins frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. Essential oils were used over 6000 years ago and more than 3000 years ago, trade amongst China, Egypt and India consisted of precious scented cargoes of spices, scented woods, gums, resins and camphor. Ancient Egypt saw resins burning in the morning, myrrh at noon and kyphi at sunset.
Essential oils were used for healing and magical rites, and were an intrinsic part of the ritual mummification. On the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, pots were found to contain precious myrrh and frankincense. Essential oils have been variously described as the life force or essence of plants. This essence is found in leaves (such as eucalyptus), petals (rose), bark (sandalwood), resins (myrrh), roots (calamus), rind (citrus fruits) and seeds (caraway). Essential oils are non-oily, unlike olive, safflower and other fixed oils, and they evaporate when exposed to air.
In the history of aromatherapy, the term “Aromatherapie” was first used in 1928 by a French chemist, Dr Rene-Maurice Gattefosse to describe the therapeutic action of aromatic plant essences. Not long after, Dr Jean Valnet found the essences held remarkable regenerative and antiseptic properties effective for healing the wounds of soldiers in World War II.
The aroma cosmetology, the practice of aromatherapy in beauty therapy and health care was pioneered by French biochemist Marguerite Maury in her influential book, The Secret of Life and Youth. She also developed the method of applying the oils through massage and went on to set up clinics in England, Paris and Switzerland.
Today there is a revival all around the globe in the art of aromatherapy and contemporary research is now beginning to realize the scientific foundations of these amazing elixirs of life, their properties and applications.
Essential oils and aromatherapy have become an integral part of modern day living.