Aromatherapy, an alternative medicine that uses essential oils to enhance a person's health or mood, is an age old practice. While aromatherapy is traditionally linked to the scents of certain essential oils and their medicinal properties, the term aromatherapy is actually a generic expression that can refer to any of the various traditions that utilize essential oils for healing purposes. This can be topical as well as inhaled.

Essential oils are derived from plants, often referred to as aromatic herbs or aromatic plants. Also known as volatile or ethereal oils, essentials can also be called “oil of” whatever plant material from which they were extracted. Essential oils are called so because they carry a distinct scent or essence of a particular plant. They are the basis for aromatherapy.

History of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is an ancient healing practice that has been used for upwards of 6000 years. Many different cultures, including the Greeks, Romans and ancient Egyptians used essential oils and aromatherapy. The term, aromatherapy, however, was not used until the 1920s. French chemist, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, coined the phrase after a fort accident.

During an experiment, he set his arm on fire and quickly immersed it in the first cold liquid he could access which was lavender oil. He immediately noted that the pain declined dramatically and a much faster, less painful healing time with no scarring. Aromatherapy was also used in World War II to treat soldiers who had gangrene.

Aromatherapy in the Bible

Essential oils are mentioned 188 times in the Bible. Oils were used for anointing and to heal the sick. Some of the more popular oils were frankincense, myrrh, rosemary hyssop and spicknard. In fact, it was frankincense and myrrh that the wise men bought as gifts to the Christ Child.

Aromatherapy Today

Today aromatherapy is used by many people for a variety of ailments ranging from depression to poison ivy to the flu. Each oil has certain properties that work to treat specific conditions. The art of aromatherapy has become a science over the years. There are special “blends” of various essential oils that combine to bring about a desired healing effect. These blends can be applied to the skin, used in a diffuser or sprayed into the air and then inhaled.

Benefits of Essential Oils

Many essential oils have strong antiseptic properties. They are often used to combat infection and some are inhaled by people who are battling a cold of flu. Some essential oils are also believed to have strong effects on the mind and are used to uplift a person's mood. Likewise, other oils, such as lavender, are used for relaxation and to aid in sleep. Different essential oils offer different therapeutic benefits.

Aromatherapy and essential oils can be a viable alternative to health and wellness practices. It can help strengthen the mood, ward off infection and even heal certain diseases. Care should be taken, though, that the oils are handled correctly. The oils are very concentrated and some can have adverse effects if not handled properly.

It is important that before using aromatherapy for serious health issues, you first obtain guidance from a qualified, certified aromatherapist. Today, aromatherapy is recognized as a comprehensive natural therapy by many healthcare professionals.