HISTORY AND APPLICATION
The French model of aromatherapy is defined as the therapeutic application or medicinal use of the plant’s volatile essential oils for holistic healing.
Aromatherapy is an ancient art and science - history reveals that the ancient Egyptians developed the first method of distillation to extract these lipophilic chemical constituents from various plants: these oils were then used to embalm the dead. While the practice of using aromatic oils in daily life would first originate in the East in China, it appears that the Greeks also played a role in the development of aromatherapy as in mythological texts, the practice of aromatic substances for healing purposes is referenced. However, the actual term "aromatherapy" was not coined until 1937 by a French chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. Rene-Maurice suffered severe burns in his laboratory; as his wounds worsened, he applied lavender essential oil to the burns as a last resort - the lavender would unexpectedly heal his burns, prompting his further research into plant-based medicine. Later, the French surgeon Jean Valnet used essential oils to help heal soldiers' wounds in World War II.
Phytotherapy, a branch of aromatherapy, is the intentional use of plants as medicine and of plant extracts for therapeutic purposes.
The concept of phytotherapy was first referenced on a clay tablet engraving created by Sumerians 3,000 years BC. They utilized plants such as thyme, sage, myrtle, and hemp in a filtered elixir. Looking into our history and the way different civilizations lived, we realize that each society, no matter which region in the world, relied on plants to heal and treat a variety of medical ailments and dis-ease in the body. Egypt created one of the most labor intensive and comprehensive encyclopedia of plants and their preparations and applications.
In Europe, plants represented the basis of pharmacopeia until the end of 19th century - during which the arrival of modern medicine took the lead.
Essential oils have various therapeutic benefits. Because of their unique effects and relatively low side effects, herbal medicine has been regaining popularity all over the world. Based on Conso Globe a French website for real time consumer statistics, the herbal and essential oil market for natural remedies is currently experiencing a double digit increase. Essential oils have gained popularly as a supplement, and occasionally, as an alternative to conventional medicine that present too many negative side effects and lack efficiency against bacteria that have built up a resistance to antibiotics.
In Europe, herbal remedies are very common and an ideal way to take care of little cuts and scrapes. The benefits have recently reemerged in scientific peer-reviewed research, and have been proven to be an effective medicinal remedy. Unlike homeopathy, essential oils contain an impressive spectrum of active and concentrated molecules. Such a high concentration allows these remedies to offer a range of therapeutic benefits such as antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antalgic, anticoagulant, and even anxiolytic. These effects are starting to become more and more documented by mainstream scientific research: mainly in vitro.
Each and every essential oil has a specific chemical composition and should not be interchanged or used without prior knowledge. The availability of over 150 commercialized essential oils is potentially dangerous. Despite coming from the natural world, the organic nature of these substances should not undermine the danger of them: it is critical that anyone using essential oils for medicinal purposes use precautions. If used inappropriately, essential oils can be harmful or even toxic to the body. This is why many holistic healthcare practitioners stress the importance of seeking professional consultation and advice to ensure safe and proper use.
The information above was gathered from a few websites to provide a better definition and understanding of phytotherapy and aromatherapy. These sources referenced include:
- Simepi (it essentially groups doctors and pharmacists whose aim is to perfect knowledge in endobiogeny, a physiological and integrative medicine that analyzes the patient as a whole and in his interaction with his environment).
- Private health websites such as Doctossimo, ist-world, Wikipedia, etc - French magazines such as Figaro, Sante Magazine, etc.
- Private practitioners or health professionals expert in the industry.
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