Aromatherapy is a branch of herbal medicine involving the controlled use of Essential Oils and aromatic plant essences to help promote and maintain physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. Their use dates back to ancient civilisations which utilised plants medicinally and cosmetically. Avicenna, 11th century Persian scholar and physician, is traditionally credited with perfecting the art of distillation, but the discovery of a 4000 year old Alembic still on the island of Cyprus, by Dr. Maria Belgiorno, has shown that people were distilling thousands of years ago and not simply macerating plants in olive oil.”The experiments made with a replica confirmed that the Pyrgos distiller could produce essential oils and scented waters”[Belgiorno] www.erimiwine.net/erimiwine_g000002.pdf. The remains of essences such as Myrrh, Frankincense and Cedarwood used in the mummification process, have been found in Egyptian tombs with their fragrance intact. In essence they were the earliest antiseptics.
The name Aromatherapie (therapy through the molecules of scent), was coined early in the 20th century by Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French biochemist, who after burning his hand severely in a laboratory experiment, treated it with pure Lavender essential oil and was so impressed by its analgesic and healing properties that he devoted the rest of his life to studying the chemistry and therapeutic properties of essential oils.
Essential Oils are highly aromatic volatile substances occurring naturally in certain plants. They are stored in many parts; flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, berries, fruits, resin, wood, roots. They are made up of 100’s of molecules from different chemical groups which form unique combinations giving each Essential oil its characteristic aroma and therapeutic properties. 70% more potent than the plant itself, a huge amount of plant material is required to extract a tiny amount of oil (approx 1000kgs of rose petals yields 500gms of pure rose oil). Quality is paramount."It is established beyond doubt that EOS can have a physiological impact (antibacterial, anti inflammatory, expectorant etc). They possess properties which can affect the mind and emotions, to sedate, calm, uplift. They also have effects on bodily systems and they can evoke memories, change perception, calm agitation, relieve stress, activate cognitive responses and affect intercommunication (Cook 2008, Ouldred and Bryant 2008)." (as cited in Buckle, J. 2009, Clinical aromatherapy; essential oils in practice).
AROMATHERAPY & EMOTIONAL CARE
The link between the sense of smell and the emotions is profound. The olfactory system connects directly to the limbic system in the brain, the seat of our moods, emotions and memories. When absorbed through inhalation Essential Oils can activate the hypothalamus which affects the endocrine system, trigger memories and emotions and work within the respiratory system to enter the bloodstream. Fear and anxiety in my opinion are the diseases of our age. They are often forerunners of stressful and depressive states. In her book Molecules of Emotion, the science behind mind body medicine, 1997, Candace Pert PhD, (Research professor, Dept of Biophysics and Physiology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington D.C.) describes how “the emotions exist in the body as information chemicals, the neuropeptides and receptors and they also exist in another realm, the one we experience as feeling, inspiration, love, beyond the physical. The emotions move back and forth, flowing freely between both places and in that sense they connect the physical and non-physical. The way health occurs in the body has to do with the flow of the biochemicals of emotion. My work has taught me there is a physical reality to the emotion. The molecules of emotion run every system of the body”
Massage is regarded as one of the truly holistic health maintenance therapies because it promotes the flow of blood and lymph, improves nervous conductivity, soothes tension,increases vital energy and promotes a sense of emotional wellbeing. By inducing a state of relaxation it eases muscle tension which often relates not only to physical pain but psychological tension and repressed emotions. "Feeling worthless? Get a massage. Your mind, your feelings are in your body, and it’s there in your somatic experience that feeling is healed"(Pert, 1997). Aromatherapy massage combines the physiological benefits of massage with the therapeutic holistic effects of Essential Oils.
THE PLACE OF AROMATHERAPY
IN MODERN HEALTHCARE
In September 2012 in Trinity College Dublin an inaugural conference took place to address the role of plant based medicine and in particular evidence based Aromatherapy in a clinical setting. Organised and hosted by Rhiannon Lewis of Essential Oil Resource Consultants, (Provence), and Editor of the International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, Botanica 2012, brought together scientists, medical personnel and experienced aromatherapists from around the world to share their knowledge. This has become a major biennial conference, with representatives from over forty countries. Botanica 2018
It is an exciting time to be involved in the world of Essential Oils. As we lose our frontline antimicrobials to antibiotic resistant bacteria, attention is turning to the proven antibacterial properties of these ancient essences. Slowly but surely Aromatherapy is being used in cancer care, palliative care and aged care facilities around the world, utilising the various properties of Essential Oils to help calm, combat nausea and anxiety, balance moods, treat wounds, boost immune function and aid in the body’s homeostasis.
Integrated care attempts to understand the whole person mind, body, spirit in a social and cultural context, utilising a multidisciplinary approach of complementary therapies alongside conventional medicine (Marianne Tavares, Integrating Clinical Aromatherapy in specialist Palliative Care). The touch therapies of massage, reflexology, aromatherapy are the most commonly provided in cancer care in the UK (Macmillan Cancer Relief,2002)."Aromatherapy has its basis in the plant organism and its constituent molecules which possess a chemical intelligence that speaks directly to the human organism" Kurt Schnaubelt PhD, 1999, Medical Aromatherapy.