Aromatherapy 101

Welcome to class. It’s about time we did away with all the misconceptions and really clarified what we mean when we talk about aromatherapy. Take notes!

Scent Back in Time

The word aromatherapy is bandied around nowadays in a way that makes it seem like a new-fangled, first-world, modern invention. This could not be farther from the truth. Aromatherapy has had a long illustrious history that spans across cultures and civilisations. Most ancient cultures have used essential oils and the like for therapeutic purposes – aromatics were a large part of the healing process for most cultures worldwide. Evidence has been found in Mesopotamia from 60,000 BCE of herbs and plants being used for tonic purposes. Ancient Egyptians used frankincense and myrrh for incense, physical therapy and mental relaxation; they were so highly regarded, they were considered sacred and worth more than gold at the time. The Greeks were inspired by the Egyptians to follow suit – Hippocrates, a highly acclaimed figure in the history of medicine, recommended daily massages with aromatic herbs, such as Chamomile, as part of a healthy routine. Persian physician, Avicenna, was the first to discover the process of distillation which he used to extract essential oils, which he recommended for massage and aromatic therapy. The Indian subcontinent, of course, was rife with similar practices, from traditions of Ayurveda to the still-present rituals of incense with agarbatti.

The modern use of aromatherapy is usually traced back to French scientists like Louis Pasteur who investigated if there was more to perfume than the pleasantness of fragrance and began to scientifically research their healing properties. Then, in 1910, an explosion in a laboratory left scientist René-Maurice Gattefossé with severe burns on his hands. In desperate pain, he stuck his hand into a vat of lavender essential oil, which greatly relieved his agony and, to his astonishment, healed his burns. Inspired by this “miracle”, Gattefossé went on to found the French Society of Aromatic Products and is credited with coining the term “aromatherapy”, establishing the field as we know it today.

The resurgence of interest in the field is sometimes sneered upon as a pseudoscience or fraud. This is unfortunately due to certain companies, local and international, whose less-than-ideal practices have tarnished the reputation of the practice as a whole. This is also due to wild, unverified claims of how aromatherapy can treat cancer and other serious diseases as a replacement for conventional medicine, an false assertion that exposes those aromatherapy brands as scams and charlatans.

The truth is, aromatherapy is relevant again today, because self-care and mental health are once again, rightly, relevant again. In the cutthroat world of today, it is once again important for us to heal our minds, body and soul for us to thrive and survive.

Absolutely Essential

A lot of the confusion around aromatherapy stems from unfamiliar terms like “essential oils” or “absoluts”. You might ask, well, what’s the difference? Well, you’re reading the right blog.

The first thing to establish is that if it’s not obtained from natural resources and not extracted organically, it isn’t essential oil. Lavender perfume, for example, is a fragrance, possibly made largely from artificial or synthetic ingredients and preservatives with just a hint of nature buried under all that. Lavender essential oil, at least the authentic kind, is obtained through steam distillation of the flowers and leaves. Essential oils contain the naturally attained and nothing else, it’s purity is the reason for its myriad benefits and the upward cost. Many brands add preservatives or flavourings for artificial aromas and long-lasting shelf life. Be sure to do your research into the ingredients and processes when shopping for essential oils – the artificial stuff can really end up damaging your health. YellowBerry sources their essential oils worldwide, making sure we bring you the most authentic and organic ingredients possible, no matter the cost.

Synthetic fragrances should be avoided whenever possible. Though touted to be as good as the real thing, they can be the cause of many allergens, and can have long-term effects on your health. Though you may consciously not be able to tell the difference, your body will. It is imperative to be able to distinguish between the genuine article and the cash grab. If you see a range of essential oils with the same cheap price, they are most likely to be fragrances – no two essential oils are the same.

Absoluts, as the name implies, are highly concentrated, incredibly aromatic extracts. Unlike essential oils, which are obtained by steam distillations or cold-pressing of seeds and peels, absoluts are extracted via solvent extractions or enfleurage, a traditional process of obtaining aromas through absorption in odourless fats. Absoluts are traditionally more expensive than essential oils due to the cost of extraction and high concentration of oils in them. A small amount of absolut can drive up the price of the essential oil. YellowBerry, for example, employs steam distillation for itsJasmine Essential Oil. Always check for a correlation between price of product and brands that claim Rose, Jasmine or any other absoluts in their ingredients.

Let the Healing Commence

Aromatherapy through essential oils can be done in many fashions. Different oils have different benefits depending on how they are used. Some are suited to bright early mornings, some for relaxing nights. Some are mood uplifters and some are stress relievers. Some will calm you down and some will sharpen your focus. If you want to find out more, be sure to visit YellowBerry’s library of Essential oils to discover the oil that caters to your needs – or our unique proprietary Aromatherapy Blends, expertly concocted with purely natural essential oils.

Pure essential oils like ours tend to be very strong and are easily evaporable. Therefore, we need to dilute them in a “carrier oil” before they can be used properly. Carrier oils are light plant oils that can absorb the essential oil without dispelling its good properties – the best carrier oils add their own. YellowBerry has its own range of carrier oils, meticulously selected for the best results and additional benefits to your skin and hair. You can create your own blends as well by diluting multiple essential oils in a single carrier solution. Be sure to check out YellowBerry’s Basic Essential Oil Kit for your own starter pack to fusing your own aromatherapy blends!

Aromatherapy can be carried out anywhere but we recommend using a highly-ventilated indoor space. For maximum benefits, practice breathing or perform exercise routines. Yoga is a highly recommended complementary practice for aromatherapy. The beauty of aromatherapy, however, is it can accompany all healthy activities. Whether it’s your morning stretch, midday siesta, afternoon tea, creative evenings, or night-time book reading or drifting off to a peaceful slumber – you can find your own zen in your own inimitable way!

Now that you’ve had your crash course, it’s time for some practical experience. Happy exploring!