Welcome to day one in the #AtoZChallenge, in which I talk about aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I’ll share a brief introduction to what aromatherapy is. In future posts, I’ll go deeper into the different uses of aromatherapy and essential oils.
Aromatherapy is a form of complementary or alternative medicine in which essential oils and other plant compounds are used in the promotion of health and wellness. Essential oils are natural oils typically extracted by distillation and having the characteristic odor of the plant. They are therefore also known as aromatic oils. They are, for clarity’s sake, not the same as fragrance or perfume oils. Though perfume oils are also often created from partly natural ingredients, they don’t offer the therapeutic benefits of essential oils.
Aromatherapy has probably been practisedforever. Hippocrates, the “father of modern medicine”, promoted it some 2,500 years ago.
However, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), the term “aromatherapy” (or “aromathérapie” in French) wasn’t introduced till 1937. It was first used by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. According to the NAHA, Gattefossé is most well-known (within the field of aromatherapy, I suppose) for an incident in which he burned his hand and then put it in a vat of lavender, which prevented the otherwise inevitible scarring.
Essential oils are the most commonly used component of a plant in aromatherapy. However, aromatherapists also use carrier oils (which are used to dilute essential oils), hydrosols (or floral waters) and other parts of the plant. I will get to these later in this series.
In this series, I will also be discussing the various essential oils I know about. Please note that not all essential oils are equal. Quality may be an issue, which I’ll get to later. However, as the author of AromaWeb says, there are many different oils grouped together that may come from different plants. For example, both eucalyptus globulus and eucalyptus radiata are often referred to as “eucalyptus”. Same for Atlas cedarwood and Virginia cedarwood, which are actually very different plants. In this series, I will group together various oils that have related properties and constituents. After all, if I were to describe each oil individually, I could have half a dozen A to Z Challenges filled up.