Welcome to the wonderful world of Aromatherapy, the word “Aromatherapy” has become a household word all over the world. In Aromatherapy circles there is some controversy over the use of this word, some would say that it is only Aromatherapy when massage is involved. In German speaking cultures many believe that to apply the oils to the skin is too intense and that oils should only ever be inhaled, the term used is “duft” = scent or fragrancing, whereas in France essential oils are only prescribed (by medically trained doctors) for oral ingestion, Aromatic medicine is recognised in France as being so effective that it has been established as a medical specialty, there are no schools of Aromatherapy in France as we know them here in Australia, where, we follow the English interpretation of the word and generally apply the oils to the skin in a massage session.


Who is to say which of these is “right” I believe that there is merit in each, I do not hold with the view that oils are always too potent to apply to the skin, although in individual cases this may be so?

Historical use of essential oils


Plants and their extracts have been used since time immemorial to relieve pain, aid healing, kill bacteria and promote health and wellbeing. Although the word aromatherapy was not coined until the last century, the distilling of essential oils has been with us for much longer. cedarwood oil was used by the Egyptians for embalming and hygiene purposes some 5000 years ago. The plant and the essential oil of lavender were used by the abbess Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century and by the 15th century oils of frankincense, cinnamon, juniper, rose, sage and turpentine were also known and used. By the beginning of the 17th century over 60 essential oils were being used for perfume and medicines.


“There is nothing less scientific than to deny something because it cannot be explained”                                                                  Leon Binet


Ah how true, natural therapist / healers have known and successfully utilized essential oils for many centuries and yet even to this day many Doctors dismiss their effectiveness. I believe there are a number of reasons for this, firstly essential oils cannot be patented so big drug companies do not spend money on researching them, as you are probably aware Doctors throughout the world are wined, dined and sent on very luxurious holidays by these companies in the hope that they will be more inclined to promote whichever new drug these companies have created. Another reason for their disinterest is lack of scientific research, although since the early 1970’s this has been addressed, in almost all parts of the globe. Could another reason be that if we all took more control of our health, there would be less need for doctor’s consultations? I must stress that this is not true of all doctors and if your local G.P is open to natural therapies, tell your friends about them, the more we support these forward-thinking medics the more likely we are to have a shift in thinking from the old school.


Dr Daniel Pénoel writes


“Since essential oils are carriers of life force, builders of vigour and strength, and generators of calm and joy, they contribute powerfully to achieving and maintaining authentic and profound global health. It is easy to see that an impressive quantity of medications of all kinds could potentially be rendered useless or obsolete by these essential oils. This represents a profound threat to the chemical – pharmaceutical community, one that will be fought viciously in the name of self-preservation.”




Some of the early research


Towards the end of the 19th century, the first acknowledged research to prove the antiseptic properties of essential oils was carried out by Chamberland in 1887.In 1918 Cavell ‘s research into the individual effects of 35 essential oils on microbial cultures in sewage was published. Thyme oil was found the most effective; sweet orange & peppermint were also shown to be highly effective.


Dr Jean Valnet was (he died a few years ago) a Doctor, who used essential oils on soldiers during the 2nd world war, he later wrote the book “The practice of Aromatherapy” wrote: –


“Normal preventative medicine, which consists in giving healthy people drugs & injections of products whose future effect are unpredictable, is an aberration. Bringing about change by non-toxic means is the only efficacious course, among which aromatic plants and their essences have been, are, and will remain in the front rank.”


No drug is more abused and over used than antibiotics. The introduction of antibiotics coincided with the rise in indoor plumbing- which greatly improved hygiene. So, the health improvements recorded at this time may have had more to do with plumbing than with the use of antibiotics! Antibiotics are still over prescribed even for conditions for which they are totally ineffective such as viral infections; also, many infections of the respiratory tract, skin, bladder, and large intestines are resistant to all antibiotics. Antibiotics also suppress the immune response – greatly increasing the chances of recurring infections.


It has been reported that up to 80 % of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients had a history of repeated antibiotic use. Prescribing antibiotics to 0 -2 years olds can lead to the onset of asthma.

R.M. Gattefosse the French chemist who coined the term ‘Aromatherpie’ wrote

“Besides the antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, of which use is currently made, the essential oils are also antitoxic and antiviral: they have a powerful energizing effect and possess an undeniable cicatrizing property. In future their role will be even greater”.


So, I hope that you agree that there really is substance to this therapy that we call Aromatherapy.