Of all five senses, our sense of smell is the one that is most closely linked to our emotions and sense of wellbeing. The smell of freshly baked bread, our mother’s home cooking or the aroma of freshly ground coffee can almost instantly trigger a feeling of wellbeing within us.
This is not merely an observation, but is a science backed phenomenon. Our olfactory nerves, which is where our sense of smell comes from is linked to our limbic system, which is the part of our brain thought to be the seat of emotion and memory. This is why smells from our childhood deliver an almost instant hit of nostalgia. The limbic system is also thought to be the oldest part of our brain, developed long before the more analytical parts of our brain chemistry.
Origins of Aromatherapy
Human beings have been attracted to beautiful smells for thousands of years. What is known today as aromatherapy can be traced back civilisations dating back to 3500 BC including Ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India. Herbs, spices, flowers and aromatic woods were used in spiritual ceremony, for the healing of physical ailments and for preserving beauty and youth.
In India, aromatherapy became an integral part of the Ayurvedic system of healing, which it still is today. While in Greece, Hippocrates, the prolific Greek physician and grandfather of holistic medicine, included aromatherapy massage as part of his treatment protocol. Later, the Romans adopted the ancient knowledge and made aromatherapy baths somewhat famous. A self care ritual favourite still used today.
The word ‘aromatherapy’ was only coined in 1937 by the French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse. Aromatherapy is a combination of the words ‘aroma‘, from the Greek word meaning ‘sweet odour or sweet herb’, and the word ‘therapy’, from the Greek word ‘therapeia’ meaning ‘healing’.
Aromatherapy made a major comeback in West in the late 1970s and 1980s. During this time, more people were looking to alternative therapies and holistic health for healing. Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda and other Eastern practices like yoga, meditation and tai chi made their way into the mainstream. Aromatherapy has since remained widely popular all over the world due to its myriad of benefits.
Harness the ancient power of essential oils with this Cleopatra inspired diffuser blend. The Ancient Egyptian ruler, Cleopatra, is famous for her extravagant beauty regime, which included bathing in milk and honey. She loved essential oils, with neroli, rose and frankincense said to be among her favourites.