The next time you walk out of an aromatherapy appointment feeling refreshed, take a moment to thank a man named Avicenna.
Avicenna was a Persian physician, astronomer and thinker whose 11th-century work, The Canon of Medicine, served as the standard medical text well into the 1600s. He’s also credited with developing the distillation methods used in modern aromatherapy.
But how did aromatherapy come about? We’ll answer that question below and discuss some aromatherapy benefits in the process.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy uses the distilled oils from plants – their leaves, flowers and/or roots – to encourage physical or mental well-being through baths, massage, facials or inhalation.
It works by inciting our sense receptors, which then send messages through our nerves to the limbic system — the section of our brain that regulates emotions.
Humans have been using plant oils for medical and cosmetic purposes for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, bodies were embalmed with oils from plants such as clove and nutmeg. The Egyptians also used plant oils to create perfume.
The ancient Chinese burned incense to promote feelings of harmony, while the Greeks and Romans used plant oils to heal wounds and combat inflammation.
And that brings us back to Avicenna, who is recognized for inventing the apparatus used in steam distillation of plants.
During the Middle Ages, doctors would wear long, beak-like masks filled with aromatic herbs to ward off the bubonic plague.
While that method was based on shaky science, there is evidence that aromatherapy can help with other conditions.
As the Mayo Clinic notes, there’s been only limited research on aromatherapy’s effectiveness.
“However,” writes the clinic’s Dr. Brent A. Bauer, “some studies have shown that aromatherapy might have health benefits.”
- Improved sleep
- Lessening of depression and anxiety
- Better quality of life, especially in patients with chronic health conditions
Bauer writes that smaller studies indicate other aromatherapy benefits when lavender oil is involved:
- Reduced pain with people who have osteoarthritis of the knee
- Reduced pain in people suffering from kidney stones
- Better quality of life in dementia patients
Many massage therapists use aromatherapy in connection with Swedish or deep tissue massage, working with common essential oils such as:
- Lavender – Helps with depression, anxiety and stress
- Peppermint – Used to alleviate symptoms of nausea, fatigue and vertigo, and to boost memory and concentration
- Sage – Used to help people cope with depression, anxiety and loneliness
- Rosemary – An uplifting scent that helps you feel less fatigued
Bauer notes that people considering aromatherapy should first consult with a doctor or trained aromatherapist about possible risks, as well as potential benefits.
And if you’d like to incorporate aromatherapy into your next massage, contact Body Restoration. Our aromatherapy massage sessions can include a blend of oils designed to make you feel more energized or less stressed, depending on the mixture you choose.
Contact us today to learn more about how aromatherapy can help you.