Aromatherapy involves the inhalation or bodily application of fragrant essential oils (fruits, flowers, wood, resin, etc.) for therapeutic benefit. The ancient Egyptians were the first to develop a distillation machine to extract oils from certain plants, while the practice of using infused aromatic oils as a mood enhancer is thought to have roots in early Chinese cultures. Aromatherapy also played a key role in ancient Greece, where a perfumer developed a fragrance consisting of myrrh.
Although aromatherapy is considered a form of “alternative” treatment, Hippocrates, “the father of medicine”, used therapeutic oils as he developed early healing methods.
French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse first used the word “aromatherapy” after a burn incident spurred his curiosity about the healing power of essential oils. He discovered that lavender oil helped to heal his wounds and thereafter encouraged others to use this for healing various skin conditions. Jean Valnet, a French surgeon used essential oils while treating the wounds of soldiers in World War II, adding further proof that oil extracts hold medicinal benefit.
Today, aromatherapy is a well-known form of holistic treatment for both emotional and physical concerns, with a growing foundation of evidence-based research.