What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the art of healing with essential oils (EO) to harmonize the health of the physical body and of the mind.
We use essential oils to strengthen the natural processes of self-healing. It is a natural method that is based on the biochemical molecular activity of the chemotyped EO.
A bit of History
In the Occidental part of the world… In 1910, in a laboratory in Lyon, the chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé burnt his hand in an explosion. The classic treatments were given to him for a long duration without providing any good results.
The healing did not work well – it was slow, the pain intense and the wound became infected over and over. Eventually, he became afflicted with gangrene.
Tired by the pain and problems caused by these treatments, he decides to apply essential oil of lavender on his hand. Miraculously, the pain goes away nearly instantaneously! The infection is eliminated, and the healing is rapid. It is a result that was not expected by the doctors, as the natural products were not used much during this time.
In December 1935, Gattefossé brought to the Occidental world the word “aromatherapy,” which refers to therapies carried out with essential oils.
He received the recognition of naming an art that goes even very further back in history. Indeed, some alembics were found in excavations, dating back 5000 years in Sumer. They were used for the distillation of essential oils.
India also started to use essential oils thousands of years ago, as is detailed in the ancient texts of the Vedas.
In Europe, nevertheless, some rough episodes such as the plague, served to remind the practitioners of Occidental medicine of distillation methods taught by the Arabs, which proved useful during this period.
Ultimately, Gattefossé and Valnet, a French doctor, brought back to light the ancient practices of aromatherapy, during the events of the two World Wars of the 20th century.
In the 21st century, this way of curing took on a huge dimension and magnitude. A lot of scientific papers and investigations are made on aromatherapy today. This branch of healthcare has grown significantly and now requires more practitioners around the world.
Here we are with our small bottles of essential oils as inheritance from our ancestors, ready to heal the scratches at home, to heal the victims of cancer, borreliosis, chicken pox, also to be used for emotional and psychic purposes, and even spiritual and energetic ailments.
Healing emotional, psychic, spiritual pains can also be done through plants and through their essential oils. The body communicates with these natural substances. They are the language of the plant, communicating with living beings of different kingdoms. The human body knows to recognize what it is designed for as a symbiont.
It would seem that Life loves life...
The first main commonality of all essential oils is that they serve to reduce stress. They decrease the impact of everything that is perceived as a danger. Indeed, so much information, emotions, solicitations attack today’s urban man who has the tendency to classify them as being dangers. While, this should not be always the case...
The Aromatherapy and the scratches of the soul
In nature, animals and plants are always alert. They have to constantly decide what is really a threat to their life and what is not. Otherwise, they would die of stress in no time.
Human beings have a little tendency of falling into the trap of reacting as if everything were a danger.
We must respect our schedules with deadlines at work, at home, we must always fix little things at home (the bedroom light, the bathroom curtain, the door ring bell, etc.), we must do the shopping for the weekend, we must clean the flat before the visits, we must, we must, we must… or maybe not. Too often, we uselessly put too much pressure on our shoulders than may be necessary.
All those demands are normal. If we could only perceive as alerts the ones that are really important, for which we are really late or in danger, we would live much more peacefully. Above all, we would live much closer to what we are meant to be, and closer to what Mother Nature made us for.
After all, we are super predators, supposedly as peaceful as a cat. Rather than this, we are in fact super preys, as stressed as a mouse. Nature, through its scents and signals, helps us to go back to our natural state.
“Symbiont” symbiosis: In harmony with all.
Nature offers us a lot of anti-stress essential oils. Moreover, as a significant benefit, each plant reduces our ailments differently the one from the other. When we think of anti-stress, we think of lounging in an armchair, but this is not the only way it should be considered. With aromatherapy, a wide choice of plants help to relax us as well as to heal us.
Where do the essential oils come from?
In vegetal biology, the products produced by the plants are subdivided into two groups of molecules – the primary metabolites and the secondary metabolites, as detailed below:
The molecules of the first group are in every vegetal cell. They are primary in that they are necessary to the life of the plant. For example: sugars, lipids, proteins, and amino acids.
The molecules of the second group have only a limited repartition within the plant and are not part of the base material of the cell. These compounds are normally found only in tissues and particular organs that are in specific stages of development. They are secondary in that they don’t seem to be essential to the growth of the vegetal cell but their action is decisive to the adaptation of the plant to its natural environment: protective agents against physical stress, defense against external threats, pigmentation of the plant to catch the sun’s energy or on the contrary, to protect the organism against the negative effects of the sun radiation.
There are 3 main classes of secondary metabolites, as follows:
The alkaloids, like morphine, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, atropine
The terpenes: the largest category of the secondary metabolites, with more than 22,000 molecules. It consists of vegetal hormones, pigments, sterols, glycosides and a large number of essential oils
The phenolic substances, also known as “aromatic compounds,” such as the flavonoids, tannins, lignin, and coumarins.
The essential oils and essences are then secondary metabolites belonging mainly to the terpenes but also to the class of aromatic compounds. Currently, we know about 3,000 essential oils, and among them about 350 are intensively commercialized, mainly for the pharmaceutical, aromatherapy, cosmetic and perfumery industries.
The biological functions of the EO are many:
Ecologic functions for the plant and its environment, thanks to its action against the herbivores,
Pollinating, attracting insects capable of pollinating,
Insecticides to keep danger away,
Therapeutics for the health and well-being of humans and animals, such as those below:
They are often used for their anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties,
For their anti-inflammatory properties against muscular and tendinous issues,
For their sedative and tonic properties against troubles related to the dysfunction of the nervous system.
Thus, their use in the cosmetic field is very large. The agricultural field is more and more interested by what essential oils have to offer with respect to food storage. Veterinary medicine also benefits from essential oils to help the animals that face nowadays higher infections risks due to their breeding conditions.
Aromatherapy is a great art, and a wonderful science, both efficient and useful. It enables us to heal some infections that hard to fight with the tools of conventional medicine. It is also nevertheless complementary with conventional medicine, supporting it to calm the secondary effects of the indispensable medication.
It can treat quite a lot of those so-called daily scratches. One or two days of class, if they are given by a good teacher, can enable anyone to safely heal some infections for oneself or within the family, even in children.
Aromatherapy enables a holistic care that includes the physical, emotional, psychic, and spiritual dimensions of a human being.
Plants share their benefits through their essential oils by a direct chemical interaction as by their energy.
The EO is one of the means of expression used by the plant, one of the foundations of its language. We receive, through them, a help from Nature that we must have the gratitude to enjoy it rightly. Let’s properly and gratefully use what the planet offers to nurture us!
Conference on essential oils, done by Dr Jean-Pierre Willem, doctor and surgeon, founder of the humanitarian assciation "Les Médecins aux Pieds Nus".
He also has published many books on the topic of essential oils.