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What is Aromatherapy?


The word “aromatherapy” is coined by French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse in early twentieth century. The story of his accident of badly burned hand and healed by lavender essential oil is well spread, and considered as the start of modern aromatherapy. After that those pioneers experimented and researched the therapeutic properties of essential oils, and used them to help wound healing of soldiers during World War I.


“Aroma” means fragrance, and “Therapy” means treatment. Hence the definition of aromatherapy becomes using fragrant essential oil to treat. During the twentieth century, there were many researchers and aromatherapists working to explore its potential and establish the foundation of the modern art of aromatherapy, and the definition is refined.

Aromatherapy is now “the use of pure essential oil, extracted through expression and distillation, from aromatic plant material, for therapeutic purpose”

There are FOUR key points of this definition.

🌿“PURE essential oil”, essential oil market is currently an evolving industrial with millions of pounds turning over annually. It is essential for the user who is after their therapeutic properties to find the pure essential oil, that is not adulterated, synthesised or diluted.

🌿“expression and distillation”, the essential oils must be expressed or steam distilled from plant material, though some aromatherapists use the substance that is solvent or CO2 extracted. These substances are not called essential oil, and will be labelled as absolute or CO2 extract respectively.

🌿“aromatic plant material”, not every plant produces essential oil, however synthesised fragrant oils can mimic the scents of many fruits, flowers, woods, and spices, etc. The fragrant oils do not have any therapeutic properties.

🌿“therapeutic purpose”, each essential oil contains tens and hundreds of chemical compounds that can be absorbed through our skin and membrane. They enter our body and blood stream, pass the brain-blood barrier, and affect us both psychologically and physiologically. The therapeutic natural compounds and their metabolites can help our body to restore its homeostasis. However, natural does NOT always mean safe. Essential oils are potent substances. It is very important to follow the safety guideline to fully enjoy the harmony with nature through essential oils.

In next a few posts, we will explore how to find pure essential oils, how to safely use essential oil, and their therapeutic properties.

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