The term 'aromatherapy' refers to the use of essential
oils to facilitate the recipient's self-healing processes.
The word 'aromatherapy' is derived from the two words "aroma",
which means fragrance, and "therapy", which means
treatment. "Aromatherapy" therefore conveys the ideas that the essential oils used in aromatherapy are fragrant,
thus detected by our sense of smell, and that when
selected and applied appropriately they may have therapeutic
Essential oils may be applied in a variety of ways, such
as evapourated into the air, massaged into the skin, dispersed
in bathwater and so on. However, Aromatherapy as a therapy
or treatment usually refers to a body-work treatment in
which a practitioner applies a blend of Essential oils diluted
in Carrier oil(s) to the client's skin.
History of Aromatherapy
The earliest pictorial references associated with aromatherapy
are images on the walls of the Lascaux caves in France which
are thought to date from approx. 18,000 B.C..
Most aromatherapy texts claim that this therapy is at least
6000 years old and refer to the many ancient cultures from
different parts of the world that are believed to have used
scented oils to aid relaxation and healing. These include
Ancient Egypt, China, Greece, Rome and others.
These ancient civilizations may not necessarily have used
scented oils in the same way as each other, or in the same
way as aromatherapy is practised today but there is evidence
of use of scented/aromatic oils for the purposes of physical,
mental, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.
During the Renaissance in Europe (ca. 1450-1600), explorers
and merchants brought exotic herbs and oils back to Europe
from the Middle and Far East, interest in these luxuries
grew, especially among the middle- and upper-classes. Wigs
were scented with aromatic oils and people carried scented
handkerchiefs to overcome the effects of unsanitary streets
and living conditions. Lavender and rosemary oils were used to
fumigate French hospitals.
Key developments leading to the modern form of aromatherapy
took place in France during the middle years of the 20th
century. Dr. Rene Maurice Gattefosse
published a book about the anti-microbial effects of essential
oils in which he used the term 'aromatherapy'. Dr. Jean Valnet also conducted extensive research
using essential oils. Valnet's research results and the massage techniques established
by Margaret Maury and
her co-researcher Micheline Arcier
form the basis of modern aromatherapy as taught today.
For more detailed background information see the History
of Aromatherapy page.
What does an Aromatherapy Treatment involve?
There are several ways in which an Aromatherapy Treatment
can be given, and even more ways in which aromatherapy can
The most common forms of Aromatherapy Treatments are:
- Aromatherapy body massage
- Aromatherapy reflexology treatment
- Aromatherapy Indian head massage (Indian
head massage alone is usually a 'dry' treatment, that
is - no oils or creams are necessary).
The form of the treatment may therefore be similar to the
form of the corresponding basic treatment (without the use
of Essential Oils).
Key differences may include :
- A more detailed initial consultation in the case
of aromatherapy - because the therapist will be concerned
not to use oils to which the client is likely to be
allergic, and also to select the oils that may be most
beneficial to the individual client.
- Client participation in the selection
of the essential oils to be included in their personal
- Some Aromatherapists favour a gentler
massage technique than that often used in general massage.
However, in all cases, the particular style and vigour
is subject to client preference.
- If any of the client's own blend of
oils remains after the treatment then he/she may be
given this to take away with them and use later, e.g.
in bath water.
Please refer to the pages about Massage
and Reflexology for further
information about what happens during typical treatment
of those types.
Textbooks and other Sources of Reading
Many excellent texts are available, both to introduce Aromatherapy
to the interested public ,
and also to aid the study of those intending to become Professional
Further Information about Aromatherapy
Introductory aromatherapy courses are available from many
For a personal introduction to this subject and to meet
like-minded people who have similar interests, find out what
is available in your area.