It has long been known that the sense of smell is powerful. It can conjure up vivid memories from the past, transform your mood, and completely change your focus. One practice that takes advantage of this is called aromatherapy, which you’ve probably heard of from massage therapists and fans of essential oils. It’s a very ancient practice with many disparate roots, including ancient China, Egypt, and Greece. The actual word “aromatherapy” wasn’t coined until 1937 by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé, but it has been used all over the world to uplift moods and treat certain conditions.
The ancient Egyptians (circa 2650 B.C.) used infusion to extract essential oils from plants, which was often used to create incense and embalming fluid. They also used essential oils as perfume after bathing—a popular custom that made its way to the ancient Greeks and the Romans. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek figure that many think of as the father of modern medicine, used aromatherapy for healing purposes, as did many of his contemporaries.
Around the same time as the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese used aromatic herbs and oils for religious purposes, as well as medicine, often incorporating aromatherapy in acupressure and massage therapy. It’s important to note that, while aromatherapy brings to mind the olfactory senses, topical application and massage are important aspects of its use.
It was around the Renaissance when aromatherapy started taking off in Europe with scholars studying texts from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Since then, surviving knowledge regarding the use of essential oils and fragrances has been used for many purposes, including sterilizing wounds in WWII (when modern antibiotics had yet to be discovered). Now, aromatherapy is used for everything including promoting relaxation and lessening pain and nausea, while also being a significant counterpart of other therapies.
Want to learn more about aromatherapy and herbs or experience what this modern-day practice is all about? Stop by Magus Books & Herbs. The Minneapolis shop has an excellent selection of books on the subject, as well as an in-house massage therapist who specializes in aromatherapy. For more information, visit their website, or call (612) 379-7669.