Fragrant oils have been used for thousands of years to lubricate the skin, purify air, and repel insects. Ancient Egyptians used fragrant oils for bathing and massage. Plant fragrances were given to patients with bubonic plague in ancient Roman, Greek and Medieval times. Essential oils of plants have been used medicinally through application directly to the skin (usually diluted), as a part of massage, added to bathwater, via steam inhalation, or in mouthwashes.
The modern practice of aromatherapy is often traced to the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefosse. Gattefosse is said to have poured lavender oil onto his hand after experiencing an accidental burn. The pain and redness reportedly disappeared, and the burn healed more rapidly than expected. In later experiments, Gattefosse studied other oils in the treatment of various skin problems, and coined the term aromatherapy in the early 20th century. Research with plant oils was later conducted by other French scientists, and techniques were developed that are still in use today.
Aromatherapy is a technique in which essential oils from plants are used with the intention of preventing or treating illness, reducing stress, or enhancing well-being. Aromatherapy sessions may last up to 90 minutes, and often begin with an interview. After the aromatherapist gains an understanding of a patient's needs, he or she will select a blend of oils. Steaming or cold pressing a plant's flowers, leaves, branches, bark, rind, or roots may produce these oils. The oils are then mixed with a "carrier" which is usually a vegetable oil (such as soy, evening primrose, or almond), or weakened (diluted) in alcohol before being applied to the skin, sprayed in the air, or inhaled. While there are numerous options, massage is the most common form of absorbing oils into the body through the skin, and is considered the most effective method by aromatherapists. A full massage may last as long as 45 minutes. The patient may be advised not to shower for several hours to allow a longer period for oils to be absorbed.
Fragrance oils and products containing man-made compounds are not used in the practice of genuine aromatherapy. Although many gift shops sell scented candles, pomanders, and potpourri as "aromatherapy," genuine aromatherapy treatments use higher strength (concentrated) essential oils drawn from various herbs.
There is no formal training or licensing procedure for aromatherapists in the United States. This technique is offered by a wide range of practitioners with licenses in other fields, including massage therapists, chiropractors, and other therapists.
Chamomile, inhalation, lavender, massage, relaxation.