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AROMATHERAPY:
THE SCIENCE OF SCENT

The healing, soothing, and beautifying properties of essential oils provide a wonderful opportunity to relieve stress, calm our minds, energize our bodies, and uplift our spirits. The practice of aromatherapy-the science of scent-is growing in the US. In natural food stores and department stores alike, aromatherapy products and books abound.

After a hectic day, it is well worth taking the time to custom-blend your own individualized essential oils. Then relax, collect your thoughts, and refresh your mind, body, and spirit. An aromatic bath, a calming inhalation, a facial steam bath, or a comforting massage can work wonders to revive body and soul.

Aromatherapy is an ancient art and science focusing on the use of flower and plant essential oils to enhance and balance mental, spiritual, and physical health. The use of essential oils dates back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who luxuriated in these precious substances for health and beauty purposes.

Essential oils are derived from flowers, plants, leaves, branches, or roots through the process of steam distillation, or from cold pressing peels (in the case of citrus). The resulting essences aren't really oils; they're natural, aromatic substances with a molecular size small enough to penetrate the skin. True essential oils are very concentrated; they are what give plants their smell. On the average, it takes about fifty pounds of plant material to make one pound of essential oil. For example, over 150 pounds of lavender flowers yield one pound of essential oil; and 5,000 pounds of rose petals produce only one pound of rose oil.

True essential oils should not be synthetically manufactured in a laboratory by a chemist. According to Scott Cunningham, author of Magical Aromatherapy (Llewellyn Publications, 1992), there is no substitute for true scents. "Because essential oils are born of plants, they have a direct link with the Earth." Synthetic oils, on the other hand, are created by scientists who simply mix together only those ingredients necessary to approximate the scent of the true essential oil. "The results," says Cunning-ham, "are often hideous parodies of the real thing."

The use of aromatherapy for healing purposes is an ancient practice, although it fell into disfavor with the advent of synthetic drugs in medicine. In the 1920s, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French cosmetic chemist and researcher of essential oils, played a significant role in its resurgence. Gattefosse began his research after discovering, by accident, the usefulness of essential oils. While experimenting in his laboratory, he severely burned his hand and immediately plunged it in the only container of liquid available-lavender oil. He later noticed how quickly his hand healed with minimal scarring. Gattefosse coined the term "aromatherapie" in a scientific paper, which documented essential oils' antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Today, health practitioners in Europe use medical aromatherapy for stress management and a variety of ailments-applications that are finding their place in today's holistic healing movement.

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE -->Written by: Elaine Gavalas


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