Aromatherapy Oils-Friend Or Foe

These days I find it hard to make some time to relax and take care of myself. Recently I decided to stop using products that contain chemicals such as paraben and have grown an increasing interest in herbal remedies. Aromatherapy oils are readily available in various forms, either in a small glass bottle in your local health shop, or as a full-blown retreat at a health spa - the latter being slightly more expensive. However, I have always been sceptical about how effective they actually are in healing wounds and scars on your body.

My scepticism derives from herbs and aromatherapy oils that have claimed to heal burns, scars and treat serious illnesses. Having grown up with a scald on my right hand, I have used numerous medications and creams (some herbal) to try to rid the scar, but none has been successful. However, I do believe that aromatherapy is important for meditation, relaxation, relieving specific illnesses, promoting a balanced healthy lifestyle and improve blood circulation in your body through massage therapy. Using herbal remedies and aromatic oils is a practise that has been around for many years, and is still popular today.


The word aromatherapy was first used in 1920, though the practise of aromatherapy has been around as early as 4000BC. The Egyptians used aromatherapy oils, herbal extracts and fragranced water for cosmetic use, spiritual relaxation and embalming dead bodies for mummification. They were the first to coin the term perfume, as men and women would place a solid perfume cone on top of their heads, which would eventually melt coating them in a strong fragrance.

The Greeks borrowed many relaxation techniques from the Egyptians using herbal plant extracts and aromatic oils, only they credit this knowledge to the gods. However, the Greeks, namely Hippocrates (founder of medical physiology 400BC) had also used this for medical and health purposes. They were able to determine some of the beneficial properties of using aromatic herbal oils in baths and massaging oil as a way to treat illnesses avoiding medical surgery as much as possible.

Aromatherapy oils were an integral part of our civilisation in terms of health benefits and healing. The Romans were soon to follow this practise using techniques from the Egyptians and the Greeks. One of the most famous Greek physicians Claudius Galen (150AD) became the personal physician to Emperor Marcus Aurelius and used herbal medicine to treat the wounds of gladiators.

The Romans also picked up the technique of plant distillation and extracting floral water from natural herbs. Later in the Persian civilisation, Ibn Sina, known in Europe as Avicenna (around 1000AD) had followed on from this and introduced steam distillation of plants to produce essential oils. Prior to this aromatic and floral waters was used more.

Modern Aromatherapy

The contemporary world today is somewhat more fast-paced and busier than they perhaps were in the earlier Greek, Egyptian and Roman periods. The French chemist in 1920 Rene Maurice Gattefosse was the first to coin the term aromatherapy and has to this day influenced the way aromatherapy is taught and practised today. Essential oils are still used as they are considered to hold the soul of the plant extract, making its benefits and healing properties extremely potent.

Aromatic oils not only used for healing wounds and improving health, but also to relieve anxiety, depression, aggression, panic attacks, stress and even fatigue. Modern science has proven that many of herbal plants do indeed contain potent chemicals that alleviate physical and psychological symptoms. Peppermint for instance is used to relieve indigestion and stomach discomforts, whereas chamomile oil is used for calming the senses and relaxing the nervous system.

People do use various types of pain relief and medication for flu's that contain herbal treatments such as eucalyptus oil, however many of us do not know that this has been the foundation of modern medication and pharmacy. Others refuse to believe that herbal remedies are affective at all, but I believe that through patience and continued use one may see a difference. Compared to using products with added chemicals that could eventually damage your health long-term, using herbal extracts and oils are a much safer and healthier way of living.
Food For Thought And Health

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