Introduction to Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is becoming more and more popular and is more frequently being used to label anything that has a nice fragrance – candles, skin and body care, home cleaning products, even food.

Using plants as medicine has been around for thousands of years in many different guises with a presence from before the birth of Christ. Essential oils are referred to in the Bible and there are references to them in many different ancient cultures being used to support health and wellbeing.

Where did aromatherapy begin?

First recorded reference was 2,500 years BC by the Egyptians who regularly used infused oils. Their development of aromatic medicine created the foundations that modern aromatherapy is built on.

The Egyptians used various aromatics – frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, spikenard – in both the mummification and embalming process. In addition to skin care, they also used aromatics to create the right atmosphere and to fragrance their environment.

As time progressed, Europe became the hub of aromatic use and development with Greece at the forefront. Hippocrates was a major influencing factor in aromatherapy when he dismissed the belief that illness was a result of supernatural forces and developed the concept of holism and treating the person as a whole.

Aromatherapy in the format we know it as today, only appeared in 1920’s by a French chemist – Dr. Gattefosse – following an accident that led him to investigate the therapeutic healing properties of Lavender essential oil.

It was introduced into Britain in the late 1950’s formally under the title Aromatherapy through beauty therapists who offered massage techniques and used ready mixed blends. The combining of massage with essential and carrier oils is the most popular known form in Britain.

Aromatherapy has continued to develop along with the philosophy of treating clients as individuals and in a holistic manner. Treating them as a whole and not as one of many with the same condition or concern.

How does it fit in today?

Aromatherapy should never be seen as an alternative treatment but as a natural and safe complimentary therapy to be used alongside other therapies and/or treatments respecting that each branch of medicine contributes to the whole treatment of an individual.

More acute conditions should always still be referred to a physician or consultant, whereas conditions such as stress may be better treated with essential oils.

More and more hospitals are starting to use aromatherapy for non-invasive treatment and in palliative care supporting patients looking for more natural support.

But it needs to be recognised that even essential oils have limitations on what they can achieve and it is key to be aware of this fact and of the limitations themselves when using them.

Where do I even start?

When starting on an aromatherapy journey, there is a lot to take on board to ensure the correct, safe and effective use of essential oils. This ranges from who you work with and their level of knowledge, qualifications and adequate insurance, purchasing the highest quality and safest essential oils available, how to store them and ways in which to use them.

I will be writing future blogs and social media to help develop this knowledge as I am passionate that everyone using essential oils does so to get the maximum benefits.

Annika Vincent Essentially Serene Clinical Aromatherapist