History & Benefits of Aromatherapy
Along with massage, the art of aromatherapy is one of the oldest practiced forms of medicine in the world, and despite many misperceptions, it does not simply involve inhaling the scent of a plant. Rather, it is a combination of inhaling the natural aroma and, in many cases, blending those aromatic oils into a topical solution that can be applied to the body.
Before the advent of modern medicines, medicinal plants were the natural way that humans used to treat various ailments and illnesses. White willow bark was chewed or brewed into tea to be used as a painkiller; spikenard (also known as nard or jatamansi) was a highly sought-after and very expensive aromatic oil derived from a root and was even mentioned in the Bible as being the precious substance used to anoint Jesus' feet; fennel was used to assist digestion; frankincense and myrrh were used for meditation and as embalming substances; and neroli (bitter orange blossom) was used to adorn virgins for their wedding nights to help soothe anxious nerves.
Avicenna, the famous Arabian physician and alchemist, was the first person to perfect the steam distillation process for plant material. This method converts the oils within the plant into vapors as steam rises up through the plant matter, and then diverts the vapors into another chamber where it is allowed to cool back into liquid. The liquid obtained is a combination of the essential oil, which floats on top, as well as a hydrosol, the water-soluble portions of the vapor which have remained in the water cooled from the steam. Hydrosols are also known as flower waters. The oil can then be removed from the overall extract. While Avicenna's methods have been improved upon today with modern distilleries, the principle remains largely the same, allowing the precious plant oils to be extracted from the bulk of plant material.
Today, plant oils and essences are still an extremely beneficial and natural way to achieve both physical and mental healing, especially when they are blended into powerful remedies specifically targeted to address an issue. Depending on the oils used and the method of application, the positive effects can include:
Heightened overall awareness and alertness
Reduced pain and inflammation in an area
Powerful antibiotic action
Increased circulation to an area
Faster healing time for injuries
Clearer respiratory system and sinuses
Increased feelings of well-being
These are just a few of the benefits that essential oils can provide, and they may be just what you need to achieve full health in your life.