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Aromatherapy

Introduction

Aromatherapy has been around and has been practicised in one form or another since the beginning og civilisation. It is the art, and science, of using oils from aromatic plants to enhance health and beauty. Apart from the physical benefits, essential oils can have suble effects on the mind and emothions. The essential oils taken from plants and used in Aromatherapy have been described as their "life force" -they are essential to the plants' biological process, as well as being the substance which gives them their scent. Synthetic oils, even if chemically similar, will lack all the natural elements, and that vital life-force, that make essential oils so valuable therapeutically.

Essential oils are extracted from flowers, herbs, spices, woods and fibres, usually by distilatation, expression and solvent extraction. Solvent extraction is only acceptable for aromatheraphy if the solvent used is completely removed after the manufacturing process.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is a word coined by French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse in 1920. While working in his laboratory he had an accident that resulted in a third degree burn of his hand and forearm. He plunged his arm into a vat of lavender oil thinking that it was water. To his surprise the burning slowly decresed and then stopped within a few minutes. Over a period of time, with the continual application of lavender oil, the burn healed completely without a trace of a scar.

Aromatherapy is derived from two words. Aroma-meaning fragrance or smell and therapy - meaning treatment. From Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts we know that priests and physicians have been using essential oils for at least 6000 years old. An ancient Egyptian medical papyri considered to date back to around 1555 BC contains remedies for all types of illnesses and the methods of application are similar to the ones used in Aromatherapy and Herbal medicine today.

The Egyptians used a method known as infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants and incense was probably one of the earliest ways of using aromatics. The Egyptians were experts at embalming using aromatics to help preserve flesh. The Egyptians used to be messaged with fragrant oils after bathing. The Greeks continue theuse of aromatic oils and used them medicinally and cosmetically. A book written by a Greek physican Pedacius Dioscorides, about herbal medicine stood for at least 1200 years as the Western World's standard medical reference. Many of the remedies he mentions are still in use today in Aromatherapy.

There are 188 references to essential oils in the Bible. Some precious oils such as frankincense, myrrh, rosemary, hyssop, cinnamon and spikenard were used for theanointing and healing of the sick. Biblical prophets recognized the use of essential oils as protection for their bodies from the ravages of disease. The three wise men presented the Christ child with the essential oils of frankincense and myrrh. Clinical research now shows that frankincense oil contains very high immune stimulating properties.

Throughout the Old Testament and up to the time of Christ there are numerous references to the value of oils. Perhaps during the Dark Ages and the burning of libraries such as Alexandria, much of this knowledge was lost.

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