Fast forward a few hundred years, and a painful burn experienced by French chemist René-Maurice Gatttefossé gave birth to the word commonly used to describe the use of essential oils today – Aromatherapy. While working in his laboratory, Gatttefossé quenched a bad burn when, out of reflex, he plunged his arm into the nearest liquid, a vat of Lavender oil. He was amazed by how quickly the burn healed, and without scarring. This piqued his interest in essential oils even further, and through his study and definitive writings on the subject, Gatttefossé is now remembered as one of the pioneers of Aromatherapy. In 1937 he published the book, Aromathérapie: Les Huiles essentielles hormones végétales (later translated into English as Gatttefossé’s Aromatherapy), which is still in print today.
History of Aromatherapy A Brief
The Ancient Egyptians, Indians, Chinese and Romans have all used aromatic plants for spiritual, ritual and therapeutic purposes throughout history. One of the earliest aromatic formulas, called Kyphi, contained sixteen aromatics, including saffron, cassia, spikenard, myrrh, juniper, calamus, cinnamon and frankincense. Kyphi was used as an incense, a perfume and was even used for medicinal purposes. In 1922, when Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened, a vessel was found containing Kyphi. It still had an odour after all those centuries. ﷯The Arabic physician Avicenna (AD 980 - 1037) was the first to be credited with the process of distillation of plants, which was used to obtain essential oils and aromatic waters. Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine, once said, “The key to good health rests in having daily aromatic baths and a scented massage". In 1910, the French chemist René Maurice Gattefossé discovered the healing properties of lavender oil, after severely burning his hand in a laboratory explosion. Gattefossé introduced the term “aromatherapy” in the 1937 publication of his book, Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales, and thus began the use of essential oils for therapeutic application. The account of the incident, in Gattefossé’s words:
﷯"The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped "the gasification of the tissue". This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910)." French doctor Jean Valnet used essential oils to treat medical and psychiatric disorders and published his book Aromatherapie in 1964. Others involved in the development of aromatherapy include Robert Tisserand, and Pierre Franchomme & Dr. Daniel Pénoël.