(originally published in the February, 1998 edition of Les Nouvelles Esthétiques)
History reveals that thousands of years ago, essential oils were highly respected and used as perfumes and medicines.
In fact, essential oils are mentioned in the Bible, and church services during the Christmas season. We are told that the three wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh as gifts to the baby Jesus. (Some biblical scholars opine that “gold” brought by one of the wise men was not the metallic gold, but the essential oil of camomile roman, anthemis nobilis, which has a golden color.)
During the middle ages, when plagues were rampant, some of the people wore cloves of garlic to ward off the “evil” spirits, diseases and plague.
In the early 1920s, when a laboratory explosion occurred, severely burning a French chemist’s hand and wrist, the chemist, Rene Gattefosse, immediately thrust his hand into a vat of what he thought was water. The liquid was not water, but the essential oil of lavender. He unknowingly saturated his burns with the essential oil. Gattefosse believed the lavender oil aided his burns and convinced his good friend, Dr. Jean Valnet, who was an army surgeon working in the war zones in the Second World War, to use lavender oil on soldiers’ wounds. Valnet used the oils as an antiseptic and after the war, he treated patients in a psychiatric hospital with the oils and other plant products. By now the term “aromatherapie” had been coined by Gattefosse.
Today, not only are certain essential oils still listed in the pharmacopoeias of the world, (or other compendiums such as the National Formulary in the United States) there has been and still is a great amount of research being conducted in this decade, some of which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health in the United States.
The remaining four pages of the article, contain information about: defining essential oils; legalities on use; education (page 24); before using essential oils; contraindications (page 26); who can use oils; certification (page 28); type, quality and grade; and you are liable (page 30).
Les Nouvelles Esthétiques