Exploring Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy Session

Exploring Aromatherapy

As promised at the live Facebook event, here is some information we touched on.

1. A Short Summary of the History of Aromatherapy

Scent culture dates back more than 5000 years. Apparently the oldest distilling equipment to produce essential oils was found in the grave of a prince dating back to approximately 3000 BC.

It was only the upper social class that had access to the use of scent. Kings, Priests, Queens and the likes.  When you think about ancient scents, I am sure you will think of the story of Baby Jesus and the 3 Wise Men who bore gifts of 2 of those scents, namely Frankincense and Myrrh. To this day we associate those with Mass of a Catholic Service and Christmas.

Those reached Western civilizations from the Orient by the famous trade routes like the “Spice Route”. The perfume industry had its origins those scents too with the word being derived from the Latin : Per fumum, meaning through smoke, which was the main form of diffusing scent in its origins.

Once in Europe, this is how some cultures applied and utilised the new found scents:

The Romans were obsessed with Essential Oils, particularly Rose Oil. They did not themselves produce them but had them delivered from their conquered lands as far away as Egypt. They had rose buds cover the participants after their infamous orgies as to throw a veil of secrecy over the behaviours of those events. Rose filled cushions, rose water in culinary use as well as used topically. A lush and extravagant time for those in high places.

Following this type of use, a new scent culture developed several centuries later in Persia, Isfahan, where some famous physicians such as Avicenna carried out healing and medical treatments with the use of rose oil and rose water. The first medical faculty was founded in Cordoba of Southern Spain.

Modern Aromatherapy  originates in France, where a chemist by the name of Rene Gattefossee decided to call a new therapy and also his book published in 1936 this exact term. He performed tests with essential oils to establish their germ inhibiting effects on cell cultures. A book with the same title was written by Dr.  Jean Valnet in 1950. This gentleman became best known for his treatment of war injuries during World War 2.

England is the country that developed the aroma massage together with the use of essential oils for medical treatments. Dr. Valnet had inspired 2 ladies, Marguerite Maury and Micheline Arcier who made this type of massage popular in England in the 1960s. There are a vast number of Aromatherapy schools throughout the UK and of course beyond teaching Aromatherapy Massage.

So that’s a short summary of the origins. Plenty of literature exists nowadays about this fascinating field of study.

2. What are Essential Oils?

The latin term “Quinta Essentia” describes essential oils as the fifth essence in addition to the four elements.

These precious extracts are the very essence of a plant – its life force, energy and soul. The oils serve a very specific purpose in their host plants. For example they attract insects for pollination, create resistance against pests or bacteria which could threaten the plant’s survival. Some protect against heat or cold and act as energy reserve.

Ultimately they can be described as the plant’s hormones. Just like our own hormones. They consist of many chemical substances just like our bodies. Understanding aroma chemistry is the key to having the ability to use them for therapeutic purposes. This is an extensive and fascinating topic but here is not the place to delve deeper into it. There are however many reputable sources out there, should you like to undertake some study of your own.

I talked about the most important factors to look out for when purchasing an essential oil and also about the various plant parts and extraction methods used to obtain the. So here is the replay of the Facebook live video “What is an Essential Oil” .In case you missed our live session.

You can also join our closed group called “Exploring Aromatherapy” through our Facebook page.


It would be great to get your feedback on the topic. And watch out for future posts on this and other topics.