Aromatherapy is a holistic practice that is considered a particular branch of herbal medicine.
It is based on the sensory perception of the individual of concentrated extracts of flowers and medicinal plants for therapeutic purposes through the use of essential oils.
Aromatherapy generates beneficial effects on the whole organism from an emotional and psycho-physical point of view as it is able to calm the mind, to give us positive emotions by lifting the mood and to relieve a series of physical ailments of modest entity (pain head, cold, insomnia etc ...).
However, it must be emphasized that aromatherapy, although belonging to the family of alternative natural medicines, cannot absolutely replace traditional medicine in the treatment of pathologies, but it certainly accompanies it by constituting a valid aid in countering a series of daily ailments.
Essential oils, also called simply essences, are natural blends made up of distillates from the plant world that are volatile at room temperature and are therefore ideal for scenting closed environments using diffusers or candles, generating an immediate feeling of well-being in us.
The therapeutic properties (balsamic, soothing and antiseptic) of the essences are conveyed to the individual mainly through the sense of smell, as the respiratory tract constitutes a preferential path for faster access to our nervous system.
Another way of using the essences is through topical absorption which can take place for example through massages with oils and creams or even through a hot bath by adding a few drops of oil in the water or on the sponge.
Depending on the disorder to be alleviated and the benefit to be obtained, it is possible to choose the most suitable essential oil:
- To combat insomnia you can use the essential oil of lavender, chamomile and sandalwood;
- For the symptoms of cooling, the essential oil of thyme, eucalyptus and citrus fruit is indicated;
- For flu symptoms, citrus essential oil is recommended, especially lemon;
- To calm stress it is good to use the essential oil with lavender, chamomile, sandalwood and basil;
- For insect bites you can use the essential oil of lavender and basil;
- Rosemary essential oil is recommended to disinfect wounds;
- Lavender and lemon essential oil can be used to heal wounds and burns;
- For inflammations, the use of essential oil with lavender, chamomile and rosemary is recommended;
- For muscular pains, essential oil with basil, thyme and rosemary can be used;
- For mood swings, rose, geranium and bergamot flower essential oils are used;
- For menstrual pain the essential oil with basil is indicated;
- To promote digestion, you can use the essential oil of rosemary and basil;
- To enhance mental concentration you can use the essential oil of sandalwood, eucalyptus and citrus fruits.
Origins of aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has very ancient origins as aromatic plants have always played a central role in the history of peoples.
The oldest known form of aromatherapy is frankincense which has come down to the present day; in fact, it is used, for example, in the Christian religion during mass.
The use of scented oils and ointments based on officinal herbs can already be found in the Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations where they were used in cosmetics, in perfuming the body (even of the dead) and as medical products. It was also used to burn aromatic plants to propitiate the gods, drive away misfortune from homes or during religious rites.
In the medieval period the method of distillation began to make its way and in the 10th century, an Arab doctor and alchemist named Avicenna perfected a first type of still on the basis of ancient Egyptian knowledge.
In this way, the first rose-distilled oil was produced in the East, from which rose water was soon made. Rose water was so successful in those lands that during the Crusades it was also imported to the West. Thus began to form the figure of the "perfumer" who at that time was often confused with that of the apothecary and pharmacist.
The aromatherapy practice as we understand it today, that is based on the use of essential oils, was born in the early 1900s by a French chemist René Maurice Gattefossé, now considered the father of aromatherapy who also coined its name.
Gattefossé began to thoroughly study the therapeutic properties of lavender following a bad personal experience.
In fact, he reported severe burns to his hands caused by an accident in the family laboratory and, it is said, that after trying traditional medicine with no results, he began to put essential lavender oil on his wounds, managing to heal over time completely.
In 1964, Gattefossé published the volume "Aromathérapie" which soon became the reference text for the modern discipline.