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Chad Gatrell, Christine F, Maria B, Tina G March 18, 2009 Vol. 7, Issue 3
Chad Gatrell
Aromatherapy has historically been applied to
improve innumerable health conditions and/or
states of mind in various places all over the
Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans have
been identified as using essential oils for
therapeutic purposes, including treatment of
health conditions and diseases.
Most medical documents relating to the use of
aromatherapy in the ancient Mediterranean have
been lost as a result of the destruction of the
Royal Library of Alexandria.
Aromatherapy spread from Greece and Rome
to parts of the Middle East and into Central
Europe, where it became popular in medieval
Aromatherapy has been practiced in Chinese
medicine for thousands of years.
Essential oils were also used by the Incans,
Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs; the first great
civilizations of the Americas.
Did you
Aboriginal Australians have been using the
know…Lavender can be
Melaleuca species for medicinal purposes for
applied directly to the
possibly thousands of years.
skin to help alleviate the
In the twentieth century, René-Maurice pain from burns, soothe
Gattefossé began scientific research into and cleanse cuts and skin
therapeutic properties of essential oils. irritations, as well as
Gattefossé’s research opened the door for promote tissue
many others to conduct research and publish regeneration. On top of
books on the subject, thereby legitimizing the all this lavender oil also
stature of aromatherapy as an alternative helps to relax the mind
medicine. and body?
At present, aromatherapy is regarded as a
complementary modality to massage therapy.
The Science of Aromatherapy
Chad Gatrell
The immunological properties of essential oils
make it a particularly virtuous product to be
extracted for human use. Some nations, such
as France, have gone so far as prescribing the
use of essential oils in pill form for ingestion.
However, in Canada, Aromatherapy is
categorized as a holistic practice and is
considered to be a complementary modality.
For this reason, Canadians experience
aromatherapy through more conventional
methods: absorption or inhalation.
Absorption is achieved whenever
essential oils are rubbed on the skin. While
spreading oils on the skin in pure form has help circulate the molecules through the body
more direct effect to the system, using carriers and into the brain, where the desired
(dilute solutions) decrease the volatility of the physiological response is generated. This
oil. Therefore, carriers significantly reduce process is most effective on hair and sweat
the amount absorbed, but prevent glands, which bypass several layers of skin.
evaporation from taking place before the Inhalation of essential oils evokes the
essential oil comes into contact with the skin. same physiological processes used whenever
While an essential oil molecule may be people stop to smell anything. First, after the
volatile, its small size and fat-solubility are aroma has been inhaled, it becomes trapped in
properties that make it ideal for moving sticky mucus near the top of the nose where it
through skin cells. Once absorbed into the is encountered by olfactory neurons. These
skin, the oil diffuses into blood vessels that neurons send a message to the olfactory bulb
(primary scent organ), which, in turn, sends an
impulse along a tube called the olfactory tract
that connects to the cerebellum. Each
impulse sent to the brain is processed by the
limbic system (regarded as the
memory/emotion control center). Once
inside the limbic system, the amygdala
analyzes the oil, referencing the smell in
comparison to previous emotional experience
(smoke = fire = danger). Once the smell has
been identified, a reaction is produced by the
hypothalamus, which controls the production
of hormones, and the pituitary gland, where
chemical messages are sent throughout the
body via the bloodstream. This entire process
happens in less a second. But, through the use
of specific oils desirable therapeutic responses
can be generated.
Aromatherapy and Massage must be considered when treating patients who
Chad Gatrell are pregnant and hypertensive. Some oils may
Aromatherapy has traditionally coalesced also have an adverse treatment on the skin when it
with massage therapy. It is a practice dating back is applied prior to acute or non-acute sun
to Ancient Egypt. This marriage presents the exposure.
modern client with the best of both worlds. While The catalogue of essential oils is vast, and
the massage therapist utilizes palpation and vastly beneficial to massage therapist practitioners.
communication in order to develop a treatment Before choosing to employ aromatherapy in
plan, that plan can be enhanced through the use practice, it is crucial for the therapist to realize that
of essential oils. essential oils, like massage techniques, are potent
The most obvious reason why massage is enough to cause harm if improperly applied.
conducive to aromatherapy is because it allows the
oil to enter the body in its most usual ways. When
the massage therapist chooses to spread essential
oils over the body as a lubricant, it is being
absorbed and inhaled at the same time. Both
entry methods allow essential oils to work their
way into the body, where they can apply their
specific properties to influence physiology. If, for
example, the massage therapist is performing a
typical relaxation massage, they will pair relevant
massage techniques with an essential oil that has
hypotensive, or relaxing effects. Each essential oil
contains specific elemental properties that can
have diverse effects. Therefore, if the massage
therapist chooses to employ aromatherapy in
his/her practice, they will not only make use of
innumerable manual techniques, but must also be
adept at identifying which oils suit a particular
Additionally, the therapist must also be
aware of contraindications and other potential Did you know… Lemon oil helps stimulate the
dangers in both practices. So, while the use of brain to aid in learning and help retain new
aromatherapy improves conditions such as information?
myalgia, digestive disorders, or even infections, it
is just as important to realize that certain oils will
incite adverse reactions. Contraindications of oils
Methods of Extraction
Christine Fournier
There are many ways to extract the oil
from the plant source. They include:
Steam distillation, solvent extraction,
maceration, defleurage and enfleurage.
The type of plant or the part of the
plant that the oil is being extracted from
will determine the best method for
distillation. The best quality oils are
distilled with low pressure and low
temperature methods. This method
maximizes the delicate compounds that
have the most therapeutic effects.
One way to tell good quality oil
from better quality oil is price. The
better the quality; the higher the price.
These pictures depict some of
the steps in the steam distillation

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Essential oils desk reference (2005). (3rd ed., second printing.). United States, America: Compiled by
Essential science publishing

Martin, I. (2007). Aromatherapy for massage practitioners. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams &

Stewart, D. Ph.D., D.M.N. (2006). The chemistry of essential oils made simple. Marble Hill,
MO: Care Publications.

Stewart, D. Ph.D. (2005). Healing oils of the Bible. Marble Hill, MO: Care Publications. (n.d.). Therapeutic essential oils. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from (n.d.). Therapeutic essential oils. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from (n.d.). Therapeutic essential oils. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from