| Lindsay Becker

The history of aromatherapy

Although the term ‘aromatherapy’ was coined in the late 1920s by French chemist Gattefosse, the actual practice of using essential oils has been around since approximately 3500 years BC…

So, what exactly is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is generally accepted to be the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes, used holistically to enhance the wellbeing of the mind, body and spirit. The oils themselves are extracted from plants, trees, herbs and spices and could come from the petals, leaves, bark, root, seeds, peel and blossom. The method of extraction depends upon the plant - steam extraction can be dated back over 5000 years and remains the most widely used method today and is used for plants such as eucalyptus, bergamot and lavender. The essential oils of fruits such as orange and lemon are found in the skins, so simple expressions (pressing) work for these. Historically, absolutes such as Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang were extracted via a method called enfleurage using fats, however, a relatively new method using CO2 has replaced this method in modern times.

The origins of aromatherapy

Aromatic plants, herbs and oils have been used as perfumes, cosmetics, in rituals and for their medical properties for thousands of years. There is mention of Cinnamon, Myrrh and Sandalwood in the Vedic literature of India and of Opium and Ginger in the Chinese Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine. Perhaps the most well-known association with essential oils is with the ancient Egyptian civilisation. Manuscripts dating back to around 2800 BC record the use of medicinal herbs and oils for perfumes and temples.

Essential oils were one of the earliest trade items of the ancient world, being exported from the east through the Arabic countries, onto the Mediterranean region where they were particularly popular in Greece and Rome. Hippocrates, who is universally renowned as the ‘Father of Medicine’ was born in Greece in 460 BC, prescribed perfumed formulas and remedies to help heal.

The West began to be introduced to the various treasures of the East, such as rose from Syria and cinnamon from India. By the thirteenth century, eastern perfumes were famous throughout Europe and by the Middle Ages, it was the norm to use herbal bouquets to ward off sickness and plague. In the 1800s, perfume-making was an industry in its own right, with cities such as Grasse in France making a name for itself. It was at this time that essential oils were beginning to be scientifically measured for their medicinal effects, such as the pain-relieving peppermint and the antiseptic clove. 

Modern day aromatherapy

In 1928, Gattefosse was working in the family perfumier business and after an explosion which left him badly burned, discovered the therapeutic properties of the lavender he was working with. This ‘lightbulb moment’ led him to study many more essential oils, before founding the French Society of Aromatic Products and publishing many renowned books on the topic of what was now known as ‘aromatherapy’. 

His works and those of others were studied further - Jean Valnet used essential oils as part of his treatment for medical and psychiatric disorders whilst Marguerite Maury applied the thinking to her beauty therapy and is credited with the idea of using essential oils in massage.

In recent years, there has been a shift back towards holistic healing (looking at the ‘whole’ Self) and as a result, there has been a resurgence in the traditional use of essential oils, with some 150 oils being widely used today. Completely versatile, essential oils can be used as remedies for ailments, fragrances for the home and body to create a sense of wellbeing. This rise in interest seems to coincide with the rise in stress-related conditions, a hangover from our fast-paced modern life. 

How to use essential oils

Understanding the plant and the roots of aromatherapy can enhance the experience when using essential oils and help you choose the right oil or product for your needs. Oils can be used in a variety of ways, such as massage, inhalation, diffusion, as well as in skincare. 

As they are highly concentrated, pure essential oils need only be used in small amounts as they are incredibly potent. Often, they will be diluted within a ‘carrier oil’, blended, or recommended to use just a few drops. 

Our sense of smell is a sensitive thing, with aromas triggering an emotional and a physiological response - it’s not just about having a lovely scented home!

At Duxmore Botanics, our products are designed to deliver an aromatherapeutic, wellbeing boost, whenever you need it. Whether that is a scent to uplift you and make you smile, a scent to comfort in times of stress or one to help you feel grounded, our range has been developed using high-quality, sustainable and pure essential oils, expertly curated by Char to improve our customers' lifestyles and enhance overall wellbeing. 

Take a look at our aromatherapy fragrance collections here and see which suits your current need or get in touch for advice. 

Tags: Aromatherapy