Essential Oils: Healing Throughout the Centuries

natural essential oils

Western culture has elevated the knowledge and use of essential oils over the last fifteen to twenty years as they are discovering the many benefits that our ancestors were aware of. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in a variety of modalities including wellness/medical, food preparation, aromatherapy and beauty treatments. Caravan trade routes were established in bringing some of the most valuable cargo of sandalwood, frankincense, cinnamon and myrrh.

The ancient Egyptians held many of the essential oils in the same elevation as gold and often used them for therapeutic massage and personal hygiene. Aromatic herbs were used by many of the great civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Indian Ayurveda and these influenced the Persians to develop a method of distillation for the extraction of the essential oils within the plants. These oils were continued in use in Europe throughout the dark ages as they were highly priced for both the fragrance and their anti-bacterial properties.

There was a rediscovery of the health benefits of essential oils in 1937, when Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist, used pure lavender oil as a healing treatment for a hand that was badly burned. Dr. Jean Valnet, a French contemporary used a higher quality of essential oils called ‘therapeutic-grade’ as a treatment for World War II soldiers that had been injured. The credit for the development of aromatherapy practices in the Western world has been given to Dr. Valnet and carried through to modern use of essential oils that are used by medical practitioners and health scientists.

Essential oils offer a variety of uses, both individually and when combined with other ingredients as applications for physical and emotional wellness. They can be administered in three different ways: diffused aromatically, taken internally as dietary supplements or applied topically. Making use of the aromatic senses with essential oils can have an effect on the psychological pathways that can stimulate metabolic and hormonal processes. The purpose of each oil varies from stimulation to a soothing or calming effect. The oils can also purify the air of unwanted pathogens or odors.  From a topical perspective, the natural molecular composition make them a perfect ingredient for massage as the skin absorbs them easily. Many essential oils have a restorative and calming effect to the skin and some contain natural disinfectants. Those essential oils that have natural healing benefits are also absorbed into the bloodstream and bring a faster method of relief.  There are some essential oils that are available in supplement form but a patient must consult with their physician as some may cause harm when either taken in conjunction with other natural products or foods as well as medication interaction.

Many of the massage therapists and naturopaths are currently making use of specific essential oils as part of their patient therapies and some of the healing essential oils are being combined in scientific methods to make use of their natural chemical structure for use in the relief of pain for topical treatments.

Always confer with a primary care physician prior to making any changes in your medical regiment.