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What is Aromatherapy?

Rene Maurice Gattefosse

Aromatherapy is a therapeutic method, branch of herbal medicine, which is itself the result of naturopathy. It proposes to treat and relieve certain ailments using volatile and aromatic plants, particularly through essences and essential oils.

Several writings of the ancient world relate the use of plants to treat a range of problems. For example, Hippocrates, the famous figure of medicine, recommended the mint to calm passions.

The word "aromatherapy" was created in 1937 by Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (photographed here in the 40's) who, after being severely burned, decided to use the lavender essential oil to relieve his pain. The positive results he got pushed him to focus on the properties of plants.

In the light of modern science, aromatherapy is considered a complementary medicine, alternative or traditional. However, several scientific studies examine the properties and uses of essential oils and some hospitals are beginning to use aromatherapy to complement the care of patients in palliative care.

Aromatherapy uses two types of oils essential oils and carrier/vegetable oils.

Carrier oil is an oil extracted from seeds, nuts or fruits (rich in lipids) of a plant. They are used to dilute the essential oil before applying them to the skin. The dilution rate is about 10ml essential oil to 100ml of vegetable oil.

An essential oil, sometimes called plant essence, is a liquid compound aromatic particles from flowers, leaves or fruits of a plant. They are mainly used in massage including soles, wrists and temples, or spray into the air. The National Security Agency of Medicines and Health Products (MSNA) defines an essential oil such as "Product fragrant, usually complex composition obtained from a botanically defined plant raw material, or by vapour drive water, either by dry distillation, or by a suitable mechanical process without heating. The essential oil is usually separated from the aqueous phase by a physical method involving no significant change in its composition. Essential oils are extremely powerful and concentrated products.

NaissanceTM does not recommend or promote self-medication.

If in doubt about a product, consult a health care professional.

Photo illustration: RMG © Gattefoss