The term “Essential Oils, or Aromatherapy” can feel a little outside of the mainstream. But the reality is that essential oils, flowers and herbs have been used in healing for thousands of years. After all, even the three wise men brought frankincense and myrrh. We can even go further back than that to understand aromatherapy’s place in history and the place that it has had in the evolution of various cultures.
A Brief History of Healing
The roots of aromatherapy can be traced back more than 3,500 years, before the birth of Christ, to a time when the use of aromatics was first recorded in human history. The Chinese ‘Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine’, was written in 2697 BC and is the oldest surviving medical book in China. This ancient text contains information about the properties of over 300 different plants and their medical uses, which suggests they may even have preceded the Egyptians in their use and knowledge of plant-based medicines. Although other civilizations in India and the Americas were also using aromatics, it seems those in the Middle East and China have actually left us the best records.
The valuable herbs and spices they needed were laboriously transported across inhospitable deserts by Arab merchants for distribution to Assyria, Babylon, China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia. The most sought-after materials were frankincense and myrrh, and because during those early trading years, demand outstripped supply they had a value equal to that of gems and precious metals.
Enter the Greeks and Asclepius a renowned surgeon and healer in 1200BC and Hippocrates – circa 460 – 377BC. During that time medicine evolved from the superstitious belief that illness arose from supernatural forces to the belief that illness was a condition of the body that could be “cured”. They believed that there were natural reasons for illness that could be addressed with careful observation and “medicinal” interventions.
Hippocrates’ treatments would typically employ mild physio-therapies, baths, massage with infusions, or the internal use of herbs such as fennel, parsley, hypericum, or valerian. Hippocrates is said to have studied and documented over 200 different herbs during his lifetime. He believed that surgery should be used only as a last resort and was among the first to regard the entire body as an organism. Therefore we have Hippocrates to thank for a concept fundamental to true aromatherapy – that of holism.
Aromatherapy continues to build on the beliefs of the ancients. Aromatherapy is the systematic use of volatile plant oils known as essential oils for the treatment or prevention of disease. It is a form of complementary therapy. And just as Hippocrates chose to treat the whole person, today’s aromatherapy practitioners focus on treating the whole person and not just the symptom. Their method is to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself.
When using good quality essential oils correctly, the soothing combination of beautiful aromas, massage, aromatic baths and other treatments all work to regulate, balance, heal and maintain your entire being by working with nature, and not against it.
Select aromatics can invoke specific feelings, such as lavender helps us feel calm or the scent of fresh-cut grass can bring us back to our childhood and playing outside on a summer’s evening.
Discover the Benefits of Aromatherapy
Chandler Hall is pleased to offer the final segment on our three-part series on “The Healing Power of Complementary Medicine”. Registered Nurse and Aromatherapy Practitioner Susan Irrgang will help us understand the healing properties of scent and their uses.
Susan’s talk will cover:
- The fascinating history of aromatherapy
- Essential Oils – what you should know about their properties and manufacture
- What aromatherapy is and how it affects the body and spirit
- Uses for Seniors as an aid for dementia, mood stabilization and physical ailments
- Susan will also share her own personal story of how she used aromatherapy to overcome her chronic pain and how as a professional Nursing Home Administrator she was able to introduce aromatherapy to her patients providing them with visibly improved quallity of life.