The use of scents to stimulate the senses is not a new fad. The Greeks, Romans and Anglo-Saxons used strewing herbs to stimulate the appetite and freshen the air. The use of scented oils dates back probably to the Egyptians who found the antiseptic properties of plants useful in embalming. In Egypt, Babylonia and India, the use of essential oils for healing is a matter of record. The Egyptians recorded the uses of balsams, bark, oils and resins around 4500 B.C. In India, the practice dates back to around 3500 B.C.
The Greeks catalogued their knowledge of the properties of plants and plant extracts in 400 B.C. Romans continued to advance basic Greek science in this field. The Arab world also added their information to the growing field. Of particular importance was Avicenna. Around 900 A.D., he wrote several books on plants. Avicenna is also credited with the popularization of essential oils rather than entire plants.
Essential oils are a distillation of the plant. You can derive them from the leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, roots or stalks. You manage this process by expressing, distilling, steaming, macerating, using solvent or enfleurage. The result is the “essence” of the plant. This facilitates shipping. It also increases concentration of the desired substance.
After Avecenna, information began to make its way around the globe. During the Middle Ages, alchemists began to work with the essential oils, experimenting with the healing properties or plants. They saw plant oils as the prototypical essence or energy of plants. The roving Crusaders also influenced the growth of knowledge in this field. They brought back with them exotic concoctions from the Far East. These doctors incorporated into their pharmacopoeia. Until the 20th century, herbal extracts and plant material comprised the contents of the drug supply. Only the discovery of synthetic materials pushed plant material off the shelves and into folk medicine.
One area where, superficially, practitioners did not ignore the power of essential oils was massage. In the past, the use of oil in a treatment was necessary. The ancient word for massage was “anointing.” In Swedish Massage, oil is required to help relax the client. However, the most common use of aromatic plant oils in massage is found in the practice of Aromatherapy Massage.
The modern history of Aromatherapy Massage dates back to René-Maurice Gattefossé. He was a chemist in France. His family was at the forefront of manufacturing essential oils. After severely burning his hand during an explosion in his lab, Gattefossé immersed it immediately in lavender. The effects were miraculous. His hand healed without a scar. This spurred on his conviction in the healing powers of plants.
Gattefossé coined the term “Aromatherapy.” He published his findings in the subject in 1928 in an article. He also released a book on the subject in 1937. Appropriately enough the book bore the title Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales. His work influenced others. During World War II, another Frenchman, Jean Valnet, a medical doctor, used essential oils in treating wounded French soldiers. He described his findings in a classic work Aromathérapie. In the 1950s, Madame Marguerite Maury, a biochemist, continued the advances. She could not prescribe essential oils for medical benefits, but she did promote them in massage techniques and in cosmetic use. Robert B. Tisserand made advances in England. He wrote the definitive book on the subject in 1977: The Art of Aromatherapy.
Today practitioners dedicate themselves to the study and implementation of Aromatherapy. Some restrict its use to healing through sense of smell. You can buy products off the shelf for this usage. Other aromatherapists incorporate the use of essential oils into Aromatherapy Massage.
Aromatherapy Massage uses the scent and properties of essential oils in a therapeutic manner. They are to calm, relax and heal. A Masseuse may burn oils during the treatment. He or she may also apply the oils directly to the body.
During a treatment, the practitioner may utilize several different methods. The type of massage may range from adapted Swedish Massage to Acupressure and Lymphatic Massage Therapy. The goal of the treatment remains constant. It is to restore harmony and balance within the individual. Since it considers the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the client, Aromatherapy Massage is a Holistic form of massage therapy.
The process is simple. The practitioner selects an essential oil based on the health problem. The essential oil then becomes integrated with a carrier oil. These oils are compatible and add their own curative powers to the massage treatment. Carrier oils can be vegetable or base oils, creams or hydrolats.
Once the mixture is ready, the masseuse applies the oils first to the back, then the back of the legs, front of the legs, abdomen, arms, chest, face and scalp. The techniques may be modified Swedish Massage or any number of techniques. This abets absorption by the oils into the skin. It also helps release the scents into the olfactory glands. These help produce the results or benefits.
Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage include the addition of vitamins, hormones, antibiotics and antiseptics into the body’s system through the skin. Treatments may help improve skin conditions. At the same time, it enhances a mood, raises the spirits and drains the lymph glands.
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