Kirsten Kitchen


History of Aromatherapy

Massage and aromatherapy have been regarded as a natural pairing for thousands of years. An inlaid panel found in the tomb of Tutankhamen shows him being anointed with scented oils. The hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt tell of these scented oils and their use for healing as well as pleasure. One of the greatest healers of ancient times was Jesus Christ; in fact the bible is awash with references to numerous oils such as frankincense, galbanum, myrrh and spikenard (a smell you’ll never forget).

The pioneer of modern aromatherapy was a French chemist called Rene-Maurice Gattefosse who, in 1937 coined the term, ‘Aromatherapie’. Gattefosse first discovered the healing qualities of lavender oil in 1910 after noticing that a burn to his own arm, when treated with lavender, not only soothed the pain but the burn healed without any scarring. Using this valuable discovery, he would go on to treat injured soldiers in the First World War. Much of Gattefosse’s work was continued and developed by a follower, Jean Valnet, a doctor in the French army during WW2. It was the oils antiseptic, analgesic and anti-infectious qualities that made them so invaluable for treating ulcerated wounds and gangrene. In his capacity as a doctor, Valnet carried on his work with oils after the war, placing a new emphasis on essential oils, herbs and diet when prescribing.

In 1964 Marguerite Maury’s guide to aromatherapy was published, it began to look at the holistic aspect of aromatherapy by placing more emphasis on the oils working psychotherapeutically thus bringing together the more modern approach that we work with today.

Any history of Aromatherapy is incomplete without mentioning Robert Tisserand. Tisserand continued with the idea of the individual as being unique but was also able to de-mystify aromatherapy, bringing it closer to the ‘layman’ thereby making aromatherapy more accessible and relevant to everyone.

What are essential oils?

“Essences are like the blood of a person. They are not the whole plant, but are whole, organic substances in themselves”.
- Robert Tisserand

Essential oils are the natural, aromatic, volatile liquids found in flowers, leaves, fruit and roots. Some plants will only yield one essential oil whereas the bitter orange tree produces three; petigrain oil comes from the leaves, neroli comes from the flower and the bitter orange comes from the fruit peel.

Essential oils are referred to as being the ‘personality’ of the plant, the blood, the energy, the life. Roman Chamomile’s energetic qualities, for example, are cooling and are therefore used in clearing heat from the body and mind. Ginger, in contrast, is hot and dry thus often used for its stimulating and invigorating qualities.

How does it work?- The Science.

As an aromatherapist it is important that we place just as much emphasis on the power of smell as we do on the power of touch. When we smell, the message gets transformed into a nerve impulse and sent to the brain (our sense of smell is an impulse). The short distance it has to travel to reach the brain makes inhalation one of the most direct routes into the body, reaching vital organs within less than a minute (this was the principle behind smelling salts). Smell is processed by the limbic system which is the portion of the brain involved with memory, moods and emotions. Pleasant aromas are able to calm, de-stress and relax a person because they trigger the parasympathetic nervous system which prepares the body for rest and relaxation.

Who is aromatherapy suited for?

Aromatherapy can benefit people from the very old to the very young, it can bring relief to a large number of conditions both physical and mental or it can simply help to restore balance and happiness.

Regular Aromatherapy massage can help with:
  • Digestive problems
  • Improving circulation
  • Sciatica, back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Reducing muscle fatigue
  • Removing toxins from the body
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Menopause and PMT
  • Low energy levels and chronic fatigue
  • Physical and mental relaxation
  • Depression, anxiety and stress
  • Panic attacks


Everyone can benefit from aromatherapy, but there are, however, some contraindications to therapeutic massage.

  • Skin infection, ie, rashes or weeping eczema
  • Fever/Flu or generally feeling unwell
  • Anyone under the influence of alcohol/drugs
  • People with life challenging illnesses such as cancer, serious conditions such thrombosis or a heart condition should check with their GP before making an appointment
  • Women in their first trimester of pregnancy should avoid aromatherapy massage. However, I would be happy for you to contact me for any advice on the safety of essential oils during pregnancy

If you are in any doubt, or under medical supervison, check with your doctor before making an appointment.

Copyright © 2010- Kirsten Kitchen - All rights reserved.