The History of Aromatherapy – A Renaissance
In June 1910, something happened that would see the start of a new renaissance for aromatherapy when a French scientist burned his hand in the laboratory.
The term “aromatherapy” or French “aromatherapie” was coined in 1928 by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. His interest in all essential oils was sparked following an accidental laboratory explosion in which he burned his hand. To soothe the burn he immersed his hand in the nearest liquid, which, quite by chance, was neat lavender oil. The chemist was impressed by the oil’s fast working effects, speeding up healing of the wound and presenting scarring.
Gattefosse’s discovery led to his study of the antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils and his work contributed to the revitalisation of natural medicines. Other chemists in Europe were also researching essential oils. The chemist Penfold led the investigation into tea tree oil in Australia, while in Italy, the effects of jasmine and lemon oils on human psychology were studies by Drs Giovanni and Renato Cayola.
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It is an historic irony that war and progress have often gone hand in hand. During wartime, the need for better machines and weapons and new drugs and medical techniques has seen advances in technology and medicine. During the Second World War, Gattefosse’s work in military hospitals helped advance the science of essential oils. He was able to witness first hand the effects of aromatherapy on soldiers wounds.
In his Aromatherapie Les Huiles Essentielles hormones vegetales Gattefosse records : “Wounds to the scalp: healed in 10 days. Firearm wounds: healed in 15 days after failing with all other medicines. It must be concluded that greater attention needs to be devoted to the power they [essential oils] have of revitalising tissue. Gattefosse’s work on the battlefield influenced many of France’s doctors.
Keep a bottle of lavender handy to treat burns.