The History of Aromatherapy and its Uses
Aromatherapy is part of the group called "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM). It involves using the 'essential oil' of plant material such as the leaves, flowers or / and roots to affect a person's mood or health. 'Aromatherapy' is a blanket term that refers to the various traditions that make use of essential oils sometimes in combination with other alternative medical practices and spiritual beliefs such as the use of incense in Buddhist and Catholic religious ceremonies.
The word was first coined in the 1920's by the French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse, who was interested in the healing properties of essential oils. One day, while experimenting in his perfume laboratory, he set fire to his arm. He doused the flames with a nearby bowl of lavender oil and noticed, over the following weeks, that his arm healed more quickly and with less pain or scarring than on previous occasions. However, it is likely that aromatherapy, per se, has been around a great deal longer. For example, the ancient Egyptians used fragrant oils for bathing, massage and embalming. This tradition was carried on by the Greeks and Romans too. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used aromatic smoke to rid Athens of the plague. More recently, during World War II, the French army surgeon Dr. Jean Valnet used essential oils as antiseptics. Later, Madame Marguerite Maury termed aromatherapy as a 'holistic therapy', meaning that it treated the whole body and mind. She started prescribing essential oils as remedies for her patients. France is still the leading European country in aromatherapy, where some essential oils are 'prescription only' and all doctors consider its use in mainstream medicine.
Essential oils stimulate the powerful sense of smell. It is widely known that odours have a significant impact on how we feel, hence the use of perfume for millennia. In fact, doctors have found that a life without the sense of smell can lead to a high incidence of psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression. We have the ability to distinguish between 10,000 different smells, which probably enter through cilia (the fine hairs lining the nose) to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls our moods, emotions, memory and learning.
Recent studies with brain wave frequency have shown that smelling lavender increases alpha waves in the back of the head, which are associated with relaxation, while smelling jasmine increases beta waves in the front of the head, which are associated with a more alert state. In Japan, a test on typists showed that when lavender was sprayed in the air, typing errors reduced by 20%; with jasmine by 33% and with lemon by 54%!
It is claimed by protagonists, that aromatherapy is especially effective in combating stress, anxiety, muscular and rheumatic pains, digestive disorders and women's problems, such as PMS, menopausal complaints and postnatal depression. However, British and American doctors are far less appreciative of its benefits other than in the reduction of stress and anxiety, which they also admit are modern day killers.
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Pranom Onnuamnoi is the owner of the website http://vitality.cashhosters.com, which provides advice on Health, Beauty and Wellness.