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Ancient Wisdom: The Long and Rich History of Essential Oils

Nov 26, 2013 02:16AM

Essential oils from plants have been used throughout history for treating and preventing illness, for celebrating important events and for connecting people to the divine through worship and obedience to God’s directions for their use. Ancient manuscripts such as the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus and the Holy Bible refer to how to use many plant oils such as frankincense and myrrh, cedarwood, juniper, coriander and others for a variety of illnesses or to anoint holy places like Moses’ tabernacle as the Israelites traveled in the wilderness. The Bible mentions essential oils 188 times. A text from the Chinese “Pen T’Sao” believed to be written as early as 2500BC documents how to use over 300 different plants for medicinal use. The Greeks including Hippocrates, who used willow bark tea for pain, also used aromatic essences to fight off the plague epidemic in Athens, for bathing and for perfumes and massages, that also had invigorating mood enhancing or sedative properties. The Arab physician  “Abu’Alial-Husian Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Sina is said to be the inventor of steam distillation of plant materials to extract the oils.

We have writings from Rome, Israel and other ancient cultures which help us understand that anciently, people were familiar with and used a variety of oils. Overtime, our culture has forgotten how to incorporate (literally meaning to take into our bodies) these oils to produce physical health and to calm us.

As French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse experimented with aromatic oils in France in the early 1900’s, he discovered the ability of lavender to heal a horrible burn on his hands caused by an explosion in his laboratory. He wrote a book Aromatherapy, which was reprinted by French researcher Robert Tisserand in 1993 with his own introduction. Other French doctors such as Jean Valnet, who used essential oils to treat soldiers in World War II, believed that there was always something more that could be done for patients who were critically ill and that essential oils were “that something more.” Panoel, who wrote LAromatique Exactement in the 1980’s, helped the French movement towards using the oils in hospitals and in homes to a greater extent than they are used and understood here.  Now when a patient checks into a French hospital, he is often offered and treated with essential oils as a matter of course.

More hospitals in the U.S., .are beginning to understand the power and value of the oils to help prevent infection and for helping improve the staff and patients’ mood. At Vanderbilt Medical Center, a study was recently conducted in their large (100 bed) emergency center using diffusers with wild orange essential oils to help with stress and mood. A FOX news broadcast on the study,, overwhelmingly demonstrated the beneficial effects of the oils on the staff as shown by survey results and testimonials. They are now involved in more research projects with essential oils.  At the October convention for the largest essential oil company in the world, a physician’s panel spoke on how they use essential oils for infection control, to speed healing, cutting healing times in half over conventional surgeries and pain management. They stated that they use the oils personally and in their practices. It is important to use Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade™ oils because lesser qualities not only do not have the pure plant oils in them, but can have synthetic ingredients that are actually harmful to the body.

Health care is a service industry. We can drive the progress towards using more oils in the U.S., by asking for them.

For more information, visit Resources: Pharmacognosy Reviews 2012Aromatools.

Kathy Pace works with essential oils as a senior doTerra independent consultant.  



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