Roots, bark, berries, flowers, leaves, seeds, resins, etc., contain aromatic characteristics which are extracted to produce essential oils. Most plants yield their precious volatile substances to us by steam distillation. In the case of citrus plants, the oils are obtained by expression... think of lemon or grapefruit, or mandarin (citrus reticulata) or bergamot (citrus bergamia). Some plants are rather reluctant to give up their valuable aromatic constituents (e.g. Jasmine, melissa) and more complex methods of extraction are used, making these oils very expensive.
Whatever the method of extraction, man has been fortunate to have these plant jewels since ancient times and archeological discoveries in Iraq have found the earliest concentrated extracts dating back 60,000 years. It is well documented that aromatic medicine was practiced by early cultures in France, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Tibet Greece and the Roman Empire.
The term aromatherapy was coined in 1928 by a French chemist-parfumeur and refers to the use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Here's where smell comes in!... These pure droplets of plant chemistry, when inhaled, enter via the olfactory bulb directly into the most sensitive and emotional part of the brain (the limbic system) and influence mood, memory, perception and other psychological functions, which then, if you believe in the mind-body connection (and who doesn't these days?) can beneficially affect physiological functions. Chances are, if you like the smell, the essential oil will leave you with a greater sense of wellbeing. Inhalation can be direct or indirect (room freshners, diffusers, vaporizers, etc.) but it is not the only method of getting essential oils into our bodies. Topical applications to the skin (massage or stroking, compresses, baths, etc.) can be not only pleasurable, but also balancing and healing. All essential oils should be used with caution and safety guidelines carefully respected. The internal use of essential oils should be under the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner.
The use of specific essential oils for specific therapeutic results is called clinical aromatherapy. It is both a science and a complex art. The skilled aromatherapist will work with the client to create a synergistic blend of oils that will address the physical complaint in relation to the clients overall holistic needs.
There are many books that will take you beyond this brief introduction into the fascinating world of aromatherapy. If you would like to experience an aromatic healing session please call Anna at the SELF DISCOVERY WELLNESS ARTS CENTER