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Apr 23 2012   Many of my students and clients ask me about the origins and background of aromatherapy.  Is it new? How long has it been around us? Who discovered it? I thought this summary of the history of aromatherapy  can give you a better idea on how old aromatherapy is and how long humanity has been using nature’s aromatic plants. Aromatherapy is derived from two words: Aroma – meaning fragrance or smell and Therapy – meaning treatment. Aromatic plants were  used by the most ancient civilizations, we could say that aromatherapy is at least 6000 years old. An Egyptian  medical papyrus considered to date back to around 1555 BC contains remedies for all types of illnesses and the methods of application are similar to the ones used in Aromatherapy and Herbal medicine today.   The Egyptians used a method known as infusion  to extract the oils from aromatic plants and incense was probably one of the earliest ways of using aromatics. Frankincense was burned at sunrise as an offering to the sun god, Ra, while myrrh was offered to the moon. The Egyptians were experts at embalming using aromatics to help preserve flesh. The Egyptians used to be massaged with fragrant oils after bathing. The Greeks continued the use of aromatic oils and used them medicinally and cosmetically. A Greek physician, Pedacius Dioscorides, wrote  Materia Media, a book about herbal medicine and for at least 1200 years it was used as the Western world’s standard medical reference. Many of the remedies he mentions are still in use today in Aromatherapy. The Bible has several mentions to the use of aromatic substances, both in the Old and New Testaments:
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
The Romans took much of their medical knowledge from the Greeks and went on to use and improve the ability of aromatics. Rome became the bathing capital of the world. After bathing the Romans would be oiled and massaged. The Romans started to import new aromatic products from East India and Arabia through the opening up of trade routes. During the crusades the knowledge of aromatic oils and perfumes spread to the Far East and Arabia. It was a physician called Avicenna who lived from A.D 980 to AD 1037 who is understood to have first used the process known as distillation to distil essence of rose. It probably took many years to perfect the process . The Arabs also discovered how to distil alcohol around the same time making it possible to produce perfumes without a heavy oily base. There is a strong possibility that the ancient Chinese civilizations were using some form of aromatics at the same time as the Egyptians. Shen Nung’s Herbal book is the oldest surviving medical book in China.  It is dated about 2700 BC and contains information on over 300 plants.  The Chinese used aromatic herbs and burned aromatic woods and incense to show respect to God. Traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurveda has been practiced for more than 3000 years and it incorporates aromatic massage as one of its main aspects. The invasions of South America by the conquistadores brought about the discovery of more medicinal plants and aromatic oils. The Aztecs were well known for their plant remedies and the Spanish were amazed at the wealth of medicinal plants found in Montezuma’s botanical gardens. The North American Indians also used aromatic oils and produced their own herbal remedies. It wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists in Europe and Great Britain began researching the effects of essential oils on bacteria in humans. A French chemist, René  Maurice Gattefossé, began his research into the healing powers of essential oils after burning his hand in his laboratory and applying lavender oil.  He was impressed by how quickly the burn healed. In 1937 he published the book Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales, a book about the anti-microbial effects of the oils and coined the word Aromatherapy. He went on to set up a business producing oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics. Around the same time another Frenchman, Albert Couvreur, published a book on the medicinal uses of essential oils. A French medical doctor, Jean Valnet, discovered Gattefosse’s research and began experimenting with essential oils.  He realized the enormous potential of essential oils when he used them in treating wounds during the war.  In 1964 he published his first book  The Practice of Aromatherapy: A Classic Compendium of Plant Medicines and Their Healing Properties Around the same time, Margaret Maury, a French biochemist developed a unique method of applying these oils to the skin with massage. Micheline Arcier, now living in London, studied and worked with Maury and Valnet and their combined techniques created a form of Aromatherapy now used all over the world.    
Jan 16 2012 There is indeed a lot that a whiff of essential oils can do for your love life. From spiking up libidos to rekindling dormant passions, aromatherapy has been used across centuries and civilizations to nurture the inner romantic. The enchanting Cleopatra probably knew what she was doing when she doused herself and the sails of her ship in Rose essence when she set out to seduce Mark Anthony. Even ancient Romans and Egyptians counted on aromatic baths to make lovemaking more erotic and enjoyable. Traditions have gradually given way to scientific research and today, we know that olfactory stimuli have a direct effect on the brain’s limbic system, which controls our emotions, moods and sexual drive. This factual piece of information pretty much forms the basis of the billion-dollar perfume industry!

Aromatherapy for Self-Love

It is a well known fact that individuals who make for great lovers are ones who are brimming with positivity, passion and self-confidence.  Essential oils work in multiple ways to affect your mood and heighten desire –  they may stimulate,  sedate or help with physical and emotional factors such as vaginal dryness, body image issues and stress that hamper sexual desire. Wearing certain scents can help people feel more self-assured and cheerful, which reflects in their stance and draws people towards them. If you are the kind that needs a little push to shed inhibitions and express yourself, the sensuous and euphoric scent of Patchouli Essential Oil can help you come out of your shell and release pent-up emotions. Ylang Ylang, on the other hand, can help warm up your mood when you feel frigid or insecure. The oil also helps dispel negative emotions like jealousy and envy.

Aromatherapy for Relationships  

If you feel that a lack of communication and clarity is coming in the way of your romance, the intoxicating scent of Clary Sage can help relieve the buildup of tensions and foster a deeper connection between partners. The oil is also an effective tonic for the female reproductive system as it helps balance out feminine hormones. Similarly, the warm and spicy nature of Cardamom helps clear thoughts and stimulates sexual appetite.

Setting the Stage for Romance

When it comes to love and romance, it helps to invest a little effort in setting up a conducive ambience. “Warming” scents such as Ginger, Cardamom and Cedarwood work perfectly when you want to make your space cozy and inviting. Ginger is especially helpful during cold winter months when depression and lethargy are more likely to set in. The invigorating aroma of this oil works at a physiological level to improve circulation, relieve aches and boost energy levels. To introduce an element of fun and playfulness to your lovemaking, try out light, citrusy scents like Mandarin, Grapefruit and Lemon – these are known to enhance emotional wellbeing and infuse positivity in relationships.

Aromatherapy as a Natural Aphrodisiac

Essential oils are believed to balance the body’s chakras (energy centers) and activate the sacral chakra, and is responsible for sexual function. Jasmine Essential Oil is a rare and exotic oil that is also revered as a powerful aphrodisiac. The sharp flowery scent helps fight feelings of listlessness, frigidity and inadequacy while freeing the mind of anxiety and nervousness. Women often experience a significant dip in sexual drive during and after pregnancy. Jasmine is effective in reviving the lost confidence and helps new mothers feel better about themselves and their bodies. Any talk of love and romance is rather incomplete without a mention of Rose, which has come to symbolize the emotion and everything associated with it. The gentle, comforting scent of Rose essential oil invokes feelings of sensuousness and makes women feel more self-assured about their feminine beauty.

 How to Use Essential Oils?

There are several ways in which you can use aromatic oils to add spice to your romantic interludes:
  • Use a traditional aromatherapy burner or plug in an electric diffuser for an instant pick-me-up.
  • If you wish to take things a notch higher, spice up your evening by offering your partner a sensual aromatherapy massage with a blend of essential oils. The intimate body contact will not only facilitate the flow of sexual energy but will also relieve stress, boost circulation and induce a state of relaxation. Mix 1 drop of Patchouli essential oil, 3 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil and 2 drops of  Orange essential oil in any carrier oil to concoct your own love potion. Be sure to massage the ankles, feet and hands as these are sensitive areas that can heighten sexual arousal. If a massage sounds like too much work, slip into a warm aromatic bath infused with sea salts and a blend of essential oils with your partner.
  • You may also sprinkle a few drops of your chosen essential oil on your bed linen and soak in the fragrance as you revel in your special moments.
 

A Must Have Essential Oil Chart.

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Aromatherapy Benefit Chart
Aromatherapy Benefit Chart

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