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What Are Essential Oils? (Part 1)

Essential oils are derived from plants, using steam to extract the pure essences.

These are not just aromatic essences; they contain great healing properties and have been used throughout history for many different purposes, from healing the body, the mind and the spirit.

In Egyptian times, plant derived resins and perfumed oils were necessary ingredients in the preparations of funerals. Scents were very much an integral part of the pleasures of the Egyptian lifestyle. It was the Greeks who invented distillation – extracting oils from plants through steaming processes- a method widely in use today, which preserves both the fragrance and healing property of the essences. The Romans adopted much of the Greeks medical knowledge, but played a great role in improving the way aroma was used for pleasures and relaxation. By 3 A.D. Rome was the bathing capital of the world with one thousand public bathing spots where bathers were massaged with scented oils.
The Arabs who perfected the distillation process created potent essences and exotic perfumes, still in use in Mosque and religious ceremonies.

Essential oils have such powers that in medieval times they were used to create lethal poisons by those involved in Machiavellian plots. Hence, it shows the necessity of consulting a qualified aromatherapist when creating blends for healing purposes.

One of their main uses have been for fighting infections, and formulated into concoctions that were rubbed over the body to keep sickness at bay. Although plants and herbs have always been used by natives to alleviate pain, combat digestive problems, sometimes even more serious health problems, it is only in the mid-twentieth century that the exact scientific effect of essential oils in the fight against bacteria came to be known through research and documented investigations.

A 1992 issue of the “British journal of Occupational Therapy” writes about how the practices of aromatherapy such as massage, inhalation, lotions, creams, compresses, inhalation and baths can improve quality of life for patients in hospitals, improve health and promote well-being. Amongst the list of benefits of aromatherapy listed in the journal are:

1. The reduction of stress.
2. Relief of depression.
3. Promoting activity of alertness
4. The stimulation of sensory awareness.
5. The treatment of various medical problems.
6. Providing pain relief.

Another area where essential oils have proved to be extremely beneficial is in the creation of skin-care and hair-care products. Again, throughout history, aromatherapy has played an important part in the making of exotic creams, lotions and hair washes to enhance the beauty regime of the most beautiful women in the world. It is now known through the formulas that have been passed down that their secret ingredients were essential oils.

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