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Home > Aromatheraphy > History of Aromatherapy
History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has been around for 6000 years or more. The Chinese are thought to be one of the first cultures to use aromatic plants for good health. Their practices involved burning incense to help create harmony and a sense of balance.

Later, the Egyptians invented a fundamental distillation machine that allowed for the crude extraction of cedar wood oil. It is also thought by a few that Persia and India may have also invented crude distillation machines, but not much is known about them.

Aromatherapy in Egypt

 Aromatherapy in egypt Imhotep, the Egyptian god of medicine and healing, suggested aromatic oils for bathing, massage, and for embalming dead nearly 6000 years ago.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used aromatherapy baths and fragranced massage. He used aromatic fumigations to free Athens from plague.

Oils of cedar wood, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and myrrh were used by the Egyptians to mummify the dead. When a tomb was opened in the early 20th century, traces of the herbs were discovered with intact portions of the body. The odor, although faint, was still evident. Although, a crude distillation process distilled the cedarwood, used by the Egyptians, the other oils the Egyptians used were most likely infused oils.

The Egyptians also used infused oils and herbal preparations for spiritual, medicinal, fragrant and cosmetic use. It is believed that the Egyptians coined the term perfume, from the Latin per fumum, which translates as through the smoke. Egyptian men of the time used fragrance as readily as the women. An interesting method that the men used to fragrance themselves was to place a solid cone of perfume on their heads. It would gradually melt and would cover them in fragrance.

Aromatherapy in Greece

The Greeks learned a grand deal from the Egyptians, but Greek mythology actually credits the gift and knowledge of perfumes to the Gods. The Greeks also acknowledged the medicinal and aromatic benefits of plants. Hippocrates, commonly called the "father of medicine" practiced fumigations for both aromatic and medicinal benefit. A Greek perfumer by the name of Megallus created a perfume called megaleion. Megaleion included myrrh in a fatty-oil base and served several purposes:
· For its aroma
· For its anti-inflammatory properties towards the skin
· To heal wounds

Evolution of Aromatherapy in the World

The Roman Empire built upon the knowledge of the Egyptians and Greeks. Discorides wrote a book called De Materia Medica that described the properties of about 500 plants. It is also reported that Discorides studied distillation. Distillation during this period, however, focused on extracting aromatic floral waters and not essential oils.

A major event for the distillation of essential oils came with the invention of a coiled cooling pipe in the 11th century. Persian by birth, Avicenna invented a coiled pipe that allowed the plant vapors and steam to cool down more effectively than previous distillers that used a straight cooling pipe. Avicenna`s input lead to additional focus on vital oils and their benefits.

Within the 12th century, an Abbess of Germany named Hildegard grew and distilled lavender for its medicinal properties.
Within the 13th century, the pharmaceutical industry was born. This event encouraged great distillation of essential oils.
During the 14th century, the Black Death hit and killed millions of people. Herbal preparations were used extensively to help fight this terrible killer. It is believed that some perfumers may have avoided the plague by their constant contact with the natural aromatics.

Within the 15th century, more plants were distilled to create essential oils including frankincense, juniper, rose, sage and rosemary. A growth in the amount of books on herbs and their properties also begins later in the century. Paracelcus, an alchemist, medical doctor and radical thinker is credited with coining the term Essence and his studies radically challenged the nature of alchemy and he focused upon using plants as medicines.

During the 16th century, one could begin purchasing oils at an "apothecary," and many more essential oils were introduced.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, perfume starting being considered an art form, and it was more clearly defined as its own field.
During the 19th century, perfumery remained an affluent industry. Women would have their jeweler create a special bottle to hold their treasured perfume. The 19th century also was important scientifically as major constituents of essential oils became isolated.
During the 20th century, the knowledge of separating the components of vital oils was used to create synthetic chemicals and drugs. It was believed that by separating the major constituents and then using the constituents alone or in synthetic form would be beneficial therapeutically and economically. These discoveries helped lead to "modern medicine" and synthetic fragrances. This actually weakened the use of essential oils for medicinal and aromatic benefit.

During the earlier part of the 20th century, a French chemist by the name of Rene-Maurice Gattefossé became involved in the use of essential oils for their therapeutic use. Previously, he focused on the aromatic use of essential oils, but his interest in their medicinal use grew after an accident heightened his curiosity. While working, he burned his arm rather badly. By reflex, he plunged his burned arm into the closest liquid, which happened to be a large container of lavender essential oil. The burn he suffered healed quickly and left no scar. Gattefossé is credited with coining the term aromatherapy in 1928 within an article where he supports the use of using essential oils in their whole without breaking them down into their primary constituents. In 1937, Gattefosse wrote a book called "Aromatherapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones vegetales" that was later translated into English and named Gattefosse`s Aromatherapy. It is still in print and widely read.

History of AromatherapyOther highly respected 20th century aromatherapists include Jean Valnet, Madam Marguerite Maury, and Robert B. Tisserand. Jean Valnet is most remembered for his work using essential oils to treat injured soldiers during the war and for his book -The Practice of Aromatherapy, originally entitled Aromathérapie in French. Austrian Madam Marguerite Maury is remembered as a biochemist that avidly studied, practiced and taught the use of aromatherapy for primarily cosmetic benefit. Robert B. Tisserand is an English aromatherapist who is responsible for being one of the first individuals to bring knowledge and education of aromatherapy to English speaking nations. He has written books and articles including the highly respected 1977 publication `The Art of Aromatherapy`. The Art of Aromatherapy was the first aromatherapy book published in English.

The modern era of aromatherapy dawned in 1930 when the French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapy for the therapeutic use of essential oils. He was fascinated by the benefits of lavender oil in healing his burned hand without leaving any scars. He started investigating the effect of other essential oils for healing and for their psychotherapeutic benefits.

During World War II, the French army surgeon Dr. Jean Valnet used essential oils as antiseptics. Later, Madame Marguerite Maury elevated aromatherapy as a holistic therapy. She started prescribing essential oils as remedy for her patients. She is also credited with the modern use of essential oils in massage.

Aromatherapy works the best when it works on the mind and body simultaneously.

From the late 20th century onwards into the 21st century, there is a growing resurgence to utilize more natural products including essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic and aromatic benefit. The use of essential oils never ceased, but the scientific revolution minimized the popularity and use of essential oils in one`s everyday life. Today`s heightened awareness regarding the use of synthetics coupled with the increased availability of aromatherapy information within books and the Internet has refueled the use of essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic, fragrant and spiritual use.

History of Aromather..
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