Ancient man was dependent on his surroundings for everything from food, to shelter and clothing. Being so keenly aware of everything around him, and how it could be used for survival, he quickly discovered methods to preserve food and treat ailments through herbs and aromatics.
Aromatherapy, as it is practiced today, began with the Egyptians, who used the method of infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants which were used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes as well as embalming.At a similar time, ancient Chinese civilizations were also using some form of aromatics. Shen Nung’s herbal book (dating back to approximately 2700 BC) contains detailed information on over 300 plants and their uses. Similarly, the Chinese used aromatics in religious ceremonies, by burning woods and incense to show respect to their Gods – a tradition which is still practiced today. The use of aromatics in China was linked to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure.
Aromatherapy has also been used for many centuries in India. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, uses dried and fresh herbs, as well as aromatic massage as important aspects of treatment. The Greeks acquired most of their medical knowledge from the Egyptians and used it to further their own discoveries. They found that the fragrance of some flowers was stimulating while others had relaxing properties. The use of olive oil as the base oil absorbed the aroma from the herbs or flowers and the perfumed oil was then used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes. The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known for scented baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. The popularity of aromatics led to the establishment of trade routes which allowed the Romans to import “exotic” oils and spices from distant lands such as India and Arabia.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the use of aromatics faded and the knowledge of their use was virtually lost in Europe during the dark ages.
Although it has been practiced for thousands of years, Aromatherapy has only recently become popular in our culture. This is a result of a return to a holistic lifestyle, recognizing the importance of combining the mind, body and spirit to achieve optimum health and wellness.
Modern day scientific research has been, and continues to be performed which verifies not only the emotional but the physical benefits that aromatherapy provides.
We are all seeking answers for the illnesses that pervade our society, and the stresses that this fast paced modern life place on us. Conventional medicine has given us some of those answers in the form of prescription drugs and surgery, but still, we ask for more. With growing health care costs and the sometimes impersonal quality of conventional medicine, we have turned to nature to find the answers to our questions. We have realized that we must take personal responsibility for our health and strive to educate ourselves on living more balanced lives.Aromatherapy is one such example, and a very powerful one, of a complementary therapy widely practiced today. For some of us, we don’t even know we’re doing it. When you burned that scented candle last week, you were practicing Aromatherapy. When you walk through a fragrant garden, you are doing it again! In fact, virtually all of the bath and body care products we use contain some form of essential oils – the basis of Aromatherapy. This is one of the reasons Aromatherapy is so popular today. It is easy to practice, readily available, and effective as a therapy.