Aromatherapy is the art and science of using the essential oils of flowers and plants for beautifying, balancing, and healing the body, mind, and spirit. Modern man has found evidence of aromatherapy as far back as 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia where archaeologists found distillation devices used to extract essential oils from plants. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Babylon, India, and China all utilized the properties of plant oils for various purposes. The Egyptians perfected the art of embalming with the oil from the resins of myrrh and frankincense, historically known as the most precious of oils. Their antiseptic properties were also used for healing, and their subtle qualities were used for rituals to access the spiritual realms. Today, these oils are still employed in churches to purify and cleanse sacred spaces of lower energies.
In ancient Greece, Hippocrates declared that “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” The Greeks believed the sweetest fragrances to be of divine origin. In their mythology, the gods descended to Earth on scented clouds. The ancient Romans designed their palaces and bathhouses around channels of flowing water infused with the essence of rose petals. Roman students wore garlands of rosemary to stimulate the mind centers to help them study. The art of herbal oils was also used to enhance sensual pleasure, as Cleopatra well knew when she met Marc Antony on her royal barge, its sails drenched in the oil of jasmine, a potent aphrodisiac.
In medieval Europe, the Druids and Celtic goddess cultures used the mystical properties of herbal scents, and anointed themselves with herbal salves to travel interdimensionally, or to scry for visions. Even as Christianity later came to dominate this part of the world, the sick would often seek the “faerie people” who they knew were skilled in the use of plants for healing. It was known that burning certain plants and inhaling the smoke would protect one from contagious disease. The word perfume is derived from par fum, meaning “through smoke,” a technique we still use today when burning incense. Later, in Europe during the 14th through 16th centuries, the era of plagues, the only survivors were those who used aromatics. Nostradamas, the famous physician and seer, used herbs in this way to treat his patients. By the early 1700’s at least 114 essential oils had been discovered and were being used for medicinal purposes. It was not until the 19th century that chemically produced medication began to replace essential oils an herbs for medicinal use.
Today’s enthusiasm for aromatherapy is, in part, due to an awakening for our true identity as multidimensional beings, and integrating memories of ancient wisdom into our daily lives. Our sense of smell is intimately connected with memory. We can all remember numerous smells from childhood. Some smells elicit happy memories, such as the pleasant fragrance of our mother’s perfume, the smell of freshly baked bread, or the fresh scent of a spring rain. Some odors remind us of unpleasant situations, such as the antiseptic smell of a hospital or the toxic fumes of the city. Other smells may bring us painful memories, such as the scent of aftershave once used by a loved one since passed on.
Yogic teachings tell us that prana, or life force energy, is taken in through the nose with the breath. Thus, the nose is known as the gateway to consciousness. When we inhale, odors go through the nose to the olfactory nerve, which is actually an extension of the brain. The part of the brain that is affected by smells is the limbic system, which controls our most primitive urges of hunger, thirst, sex, and emotions. Odors also act upon the hypothalamic region of the brain which regulates the endocrine system and hormones.
Odors are note perceived or sensed logically, since the olfactory nerve terminates in a part of the brain that does not use the intellect. Therefore, we react to smells on an emotional and largely subconscious level. It is for this reason that essential oils can affect us in so many ways, and could be an important key to accessing cellular memory and knowledge of realms which we are now just beginning to understand. Perhaps too, aromatherapy can assist in the evolution of our endocrine system as our bodies adjust to changes in our DNA.
Essential oils act on many levels. They have a strong healing action on the physical body. They restore and balance vital energies. They stimulate mental abilities and enhance concentration, focus and memory. They have deep, profound subconscious effects on the emotions. They open up the subtle realms, and they are balancing, comforting, elevating, and soothing on the spiritual plane.
Essential oils are tiny droplets in an around the cells of the plant which contain vitamins, minerals, hormones, natural antibiotics and antiseptics. They are highly concentrated when extracted from plants, each drop equivalent to approximately one ounce of plant material. Du to their potent nature, internal use is rarely recommended. With few exceptions, essential oils should be mixed with a base oil or lotion when applied directly to the skin. They disperse quickly through the skin, and within minutes will be absorbed into he sinuses or bloodstream.
Massage is a gentle, pleasant way to take in essential oils, which can be blended to calm and relax, relieve muscular tension, or to invigorate and improve the circulation. Aromatic baths relieve stress and merge us with the healing element of water. Mineral salts can bean effective way to cleanse the body as toxins are released through the skin into the water. Even a foot bath can refresh or relax the entire body. Sitz baths, hot or cold compressed and steam inhalation are other ways in which oils can be used for healing. Oils can also be blended for use in shampoos, lotions, clay masks, and poultices to regenerate and beautify the hair and skin.
Essential oils can be used environmentally to create a desired mood. Aroma lamps, ceramic light bulb rings, and automatic diffusers use heat or air to disperse scent into the atmosphere. Oils can also be applies onto the chakras to balance and open the energy centers, cleanse the aura, and enhance meditation. The use of appropriate oils with hypnotherapy, breathwork, yoga, or any other healing modality can assist in bringing us deeper into the core issues that need to be released and accelerate the healing process.
There are many resources available for learning aromatherapy. Experiment and play with the oils, let your nose guide you as the aroma takes you on a journey of discovery. You will have fun, and you just may access some of the secrets of life itself.