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Agnes Wehr
Agnes Wehr

The History of Aromatherapy

The use of aromatic plants and the essences made from them are as old as mankind. The name aromatherapy is derived from the Greek words aroma (=spice, scent) and therapy (=treatment, healing method, medicine), meaning "scent medicine". ​


The treatment of diseases with aromatic plants is very old. Initially, plants were primarily smoked or otherwise processed for application or ingestion. The first simple stills are from Mesopotamia from the 4th millennium BC. known. The ancient Egyptians also loved beautiful scents. They improved the art of distilling. From Egypt, the knowledge of distilling spread throughout the Arab world and was also adopted by Greeks and Romans. Scented waters and oils were used for cosmetic purposes, but also for healing.


The art of distilling continued to develop in the early Middle Ages. This was mainly thanks to the famous doctor Ibn Sina. This knowledge then came to Europe in the course of the Crusades and the conquest of Spain by the Arabs. In the monasteries in particular, aromatic plants were cultivated and used for medicinal purposes. In the early modern period, Paracelsus and Culpeper in particular experimented with essential oils. After them, medicine stagnated and with it the use and, above all, the further development of the art of healing with essential oils. They were mainly used to protect against contagion in the case of plagues and diseases.


In the 20th century, the use of essential oils for healing purposes experienced a boom. This is largely thanks to the French scientist and chemist René Maurice Gattefossé. After successfully treating himself with severe, infected burns on his hands and scalp with lavender oil, Gattefossé became interested in essential oils. The term "aromatherapy" goes back to him. He published his research in 1937. It was well received in the medical world. The classic Gattefossés Aromatherapy is still available.


Research was also increasing in Italy. Prof. Paolo Rovesti deserves a special mention here, who set up the first chair in aromatherapy at the University of Milan. He described the effects of citrus oils in particular on depression and anxiety. Above all, he used various oil mixtures. For example, he used bergamot, neroli, petitgrain, and rose to treat anxiety. Aromatherapy has been able to establish itself very well, especially in Great Britain.


In Germany, the value of this therapy, which has now been scientifically confirmed, is also being recognized more and more. Aromatherapy is now a recognized part of complementary medicine and belongs to phytotherapy (herbal medicine). The aim of aromatherapy is to maintain and strengthen health, vitality, well-being and vitality in a gentle, natural way. The beneficial properties of the essential oils with their positive properties are used to reduce stress and to harmonize the senses.

How do essential oils affect people?

In addition to the effects on a purely physical level (e.g. anti-inflammatory, germ-repellent, circulation-promoting), essential oils influence the harmonious interaction of body, mind and soul. The sense of smell, which can be influenced by the scent molecules, causes reactions in the so-called olfactory brain (olfactory cortex, rhinencephalon). This part of the cerebral cortex is in turn directly connected to the limbic system, which is responsible for the emotional area, as well as the control centers hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Brain researchers assume that the nerve stimuli generated by scent stimuli reach these deep, historically ancient brain centers unfiltered. They have an unconscious effect on the emotional level and the control of bodily functions without us being aware of it and without the possibility of voluntary control. There is thus a constant interaction between the emotional area and the bodily functions. Mental states influence bodily functions - and vice versa. From these interactions between the subtle and the physical level, the body, mind and soul harmonizing effect as well as the health-promoting effect of essential oils can be explained.


Effects of essential oils on the physical level:

• antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory)

• antiseptic (repels germs)

• bactericidal (bacteria inhibiting)

• calming

• hypertensive

• antihypertensive

• promotes blood circulation

• expectorant

• spasmolytic (antispasmodic)

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