In brief, aromatherapy is the use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. Although the term aromatherapy was not used until the 20th Century, the foundations of aromatherapy date back thousands of years. The use of essential oils in particular date back nearly one thousand years. It is historically proved that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Persians used to use aromatherapy oils. Most probably aromatic plants were also known in ancient China, but very little is known. Moreover, there is historical evidence in the Bible for the use of plants and oils for therapeutic but also religious aims.
Ancient Egyptians used substance and scents of specific plants for religious rituals, as certain smells could raise higher consciousness or promote a state of tranquillity. Frankincense was burned at dawn as an offering to the sun and myrrh was offered to the moon. The Egyptians were experts at embalming and used aromatics in the mummification process. Egyptians understood the principles of aromatherapy and incorporated it into their cooking as well.
Specific herbs helped the digestive process, protected against infection, or built the immune system. After bathing, the Egyptians used to be massaged with fragrant oils. The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils and used them medicinally and cosmetically. Asclepius (circa 1200 BC) is the first known physician in history who experimented with herbs and plants in his surgeries. The invasions of South America by the conquistadors brought about the discovery of more medicinal plants and aromatic oils.
The Aztecs were well known for their plant remedies and the Spanish were amazed at the wealth of medicinal plants found in Montezuma's botanical gardens. The North American Indians also used aromatic oils and produced their own herbal remedies. Records exist which also suggest that traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurveda, has practised a form of Aromatherapy for over 3,000 years. When the Conquistadores invaded South America, they discovered that the Aztecs used many aromatic herbs and oils as medicinal remedies.
The North American Indians also used aromatic plant extracts to cure ailments. From these French studies, Aromatherapy as we know it today, evolved and has become extremely popular, and many treatments are accepted by the mainstream medical profession. No-one can deny the antiseptic effects of oils such as Teatree, otften used by Chiropodists amongst many others. As studies increase the use of Aromatherapy treatments will become ever more widespread. The scientist in the lab will find it difficult to get so many complex compounds into a single drop of medicine.
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