Everything you need to know about Aromatherapy
When I first began studying aromatherapy in Paris in the 1960’s, few people had even heard of the therapy, let alone understood it. Today aromatherapy products are used by huge numbers of people, to soothe stressful lives, treat common ailments, to stimulate and invigorate. My faith in the power of aromas to transform our lives is now shared by millions of people worldwide. Through my Aromatherapy Bible website I now share with you this comprehensive guide to the use of plants and essential oils.
Aromatherapy has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, assisting and comforting me at different phases of my life. My very first memory is the smell of roses when, as a child, my mother gave me her last kiss goodnight. As she bent close I could smell her favourite scent – rose. Ever after the fragrance of roses has always instilled in me a feeling of security and love.
The smell is for me the smell of freedom and long hot summers. When I was a teenager I would spend the summer at my grandfather’s house in France. There was a pine forest behind his garden, and as the pine needles literally cracked under the hot sun they released their fresh aroma. Today the freedom and happiness of those holidays is rekindled each time I walk through pine trees or smell the fragrance.
Lily of the valley always brings me joy and reminds me of the time my son was born. My room was filled with the sweet smelling flowers.
Aromatherapy involves more than fragrance. Plant essential oils have therapeutic powers in addition to beneficial fragrance, and all are antiseptic in different degrees. In the plane on the way to India a few years ago, my index finger began throbbing violently. A rose thorn had lodged in it two days before, as I pruned my roses. It was now turning septic. I straight away applied tea tree oil neat to the finger. By the time I arrived in Bangalore the swelling had almost gone and the throbbing had stopped.
Other aromatherapy oils have the power to comfort. Just before my guru, Marguerite Maury died, she gave me a personal formulation of different oils which she asked me to spread on her coffin. Their strong aromas, released in the confines of the small church in Switzerland, enveloped me and comforted me as Marguerite had so thoughtfully intended.
During the late nights spent writing this book the stimulating odiferous molecules of basil placed near my desk helped me overcome the physical tiredness I felt, and helped to keep me going.
Over the years plants, flowers and their essential oils have been my great companions, healers and fortifiers, and it is impossible to imagine a world without them. Sadly, however, it is a false claim that the therapy is 100 per cent safe, and that the therapy is for everyone; there are actually some severe dangers in self-help aromatherapy. It is for this reason that this book gave me as much pain as joy to write. On the one hand, I have enjoyed all the research, talking about the plants encountered on my travels, their therapeutic values and the method of treatments. But on the other I have had to use a critical eye and condemn certain essential oils and their curative values for safety reasons.
The reader should also be aware that the demand for certain aromatherapy products has contributed to the wrecking of forests and has added to the pollution of our planet. Further, for economic reasons some oils are often adulterated, and this of course affects their therapeutic value. Essential oils must be absolutely pure and of the very best quality for use in therapy.
This site was not been created to stop the public from using essential oils. On the contrary. But as demands for alternative therapies have increased in the last few years and aromatherapy has become more popular, it is time to make sure that the public takes serious precautions before embarking on self-treatment. Essential oils are drugs and should be considered as such.
As a result, no aromatherapy products have been prescribed internally in this book. Many essential oils are very strong indeed, and have a corrosive action which could be a danger if used in this way. (If certain oils can perforate metal – for example clove oil – what can they do to the human body?) The methods used are external application and, my own preference, vapour inhalation. If the essential oil is well diluted in a chosen carrier oil or in water, it can give very good results, offer relief, and be very pleasurable, causing an immediate sense of wellbeing when inhaled. Essential oils are only used neat in special circumstances.
With the dangers of oils still in mind, I have also given alternative methods of treatment from the plant world. Instead of the oils, the plants themselves can be used in the form of tisanes or cooking, when you can still find and benefit from the essential oils in minute proportions. In fact, a dish without herbs is a dish, without sense: the addition of herbs or spices to a dish enhances the subtle fumet (aroma) of the food and not only sharpens the appetite but facilitates the digestion – as well as, of course, pleasing the taste buds. Rosemary, for example, aids the functioning of the liver and promotes the body’s digestion of fatty meats like lamb and pork.
I’ll also show you how to make your own plant oils from bought or home grown plants. The finished oils will contain tiny but beneficial proportions of essential oils, and will be absolutely safe to use.
My Aromatherapy Bible website provides you with details of over 80 plants, including botanical and historical research on each and their therapeutic values and uses.