« Back to the glossary index



[Subterm of Phytomedicine] 


Aromatherapy refers to the controlled use of essential oils extracted from plants. The term aromatherapy was coined in 1928 by the French chemist René Gattefosse. He is considered by many to be the father of the modern day scientific use of essential oils. Essential oils form the odiferous parts of plants. Marguerite Maury was the first person to study and utilize essential oils with massage. Essential oils are volatile, fragrant, organic constituents that are obtained from plants either by distillation or cold pressing. Oils may be extracted from leaves (eucalyptus, peppermint), flowers (lavender, rose), fruit (lemon, mandarin), wood (camphor, sandalwood), barks (cinnamon), and bulbs (garlic, onion). Essential oils are commonly a mixture of over 100 organic compounds which may include esters, alcohols, aldehydes, terpenes, ketones, and phenols. Essential oils can also be applied by compress, added to baths, inhaled with steaming water or spread throughout a room with a diffuser. The oils have effects at both the psychological and physiological levels. The effects can be relaxing or stimulating depending on the chemistry of the oil and the previous associations of the individual with a particular scent. 

Disease and diagnosis

Aromatherapy has no special diagnosis. During the initial session the patient / client is asked about medical history, health, life style, and which aromas are liked or disliked. Treatment usually consists of an aromatherapy massage and advice about home treatments involving the use of oils in baths or by a diffuser.