ORIGINS OF AROMATHERAPY
While the use of herbs for medicinal purposes has been around for as long as man has walked the earth, Aromatherapy, in its modern form, is relatively new. Prior to the creation of synthetic medicines, doctors and laymen alike depended on the healing qualities of plants and their by-products for treating all types of wounds and illness. Among these plant products where pure essential oils, extracted from leaves, flowers, stems and roots of specific types of plants. In the early 1900's the word Aromatherapy was coined by a French doctor by the name of Gattefosse.
During World War 1, Gattefosse was experimenting with distilled oil from plants, in a search for readily available medicines that could be used in the trenches during the war. While experimenting, he burnt his hand badly and plunged it into the closest liquid at hand, which was a vat of pure Lavender oil. To his surprise, he noticed that the oil not only took the sting out of the burn, but that the burn healed more quickly and with little scarring, than if he had treated the burn with cold water. This event marked the birth of modern Aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is a complementary treatment. It is not meant to replace modern medicine and the many life saving advances that have been made over the years. However, as people try to find more natural ways of dealing with illness, daily stresses and long term complaints, aromatherapy becomes a viable alternative to the use of synthetic medicines.
THE CHEMISTRY OF HERBS
The chemistry of plants can be quite complex as almost several hundred different chemicals can contribute to just one characteristic of a plant such as its taste or smell.
Many of the plants from which essential oils are abstracted are classified as herbs, although trees also figure prominently as well. For our purposes of study here, we will be using the term "herbs". The chemical components, however, discussed here are found in a vast array of plants from trees to shrubs, herbs and vines.
To understand the chemistry of herbs will involve a great deal of study; far more than what can be dealt with here. If you already have a good grasp of chemistry, you will understand what you read below with greater ease.
If your background in chemistry is weak, you may find the following difficult to grasp. If this is the case; do not become over concerned. The important thing is to begin to appreciate the complexity of the chemical make up of herbs; and to understand that because of such complexity, there can be all manner of "side effects", when you use these chemicals. Different people may react in different ways to the same herb; because one may be sensitive to an obscure component, which another has no sensitivity to.
SOME COMMONLY USED ESSENTIAL OILS
(NOTE: all oils should be used with caution and expert medical advice should be sought)
Bergamot: A fragrant and balancing citrus oil
Cedarwood: A very good antiseptic oil - woody, sweet and sharp
Chamomile (Roman): Bright crisp and fruit oil, used to treat a variety of conditions such as arthritis, menopause and muscular pain
Eucalyptus: Used as an insect repellent and to treat colds, sinusitis and hay fever
Geranium: This is a complementary scent to rose and has been used to treat skin conditions, ulcers, coughs and colds
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