The term “aromatherapy” was coined by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in the early 1920s. gattefossé spent his life devoted to essential oils and their healing properties. However, for more than 6,000 years prior to Gattefossé,aromatherapy had been used by the Egyptians,
Romans, and the Greeks. Imhotep, an Egyptian physician, suggested that oils be used for massage, bathing and embalming the dead. Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, used aromatic smoke and vapors to purge Athens of the plague.
Today, much has been theorized regarding the effects of diffusing essential oils, which can be considered similar to the aromatic smoke used by Hippocrates. It has been hypothesized that when essential oils are diffused, they also can increase atmospheric oxygen by releasing oxygenating molecules into the air. Not only can essential oils increase oxygen in the atmosphere, they increase the body’s ability to transport oxygen into the cells. The lipid-soluble structure of essential oils allows them to easily penetrate the cell membranes of the nose and enter into the bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, the oils can help transport oxygen and nutrients into the cells. It is also thought that diffusing essential oils can have a positive effect on the olfactory system (mechanism of smell) and the limbic system (center of memory, emotion and motivation).
When an essential oil is inhaled through the nose, it is dissolved within the olfactory epithelium (a tissue of layered cells in the nasal cavity) which has more than 40 million cells made of small hairs called cilia also known as olfactory receptors.
These receptors receive the micro-fine oil particles carrying them to the mitral cells in the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb then transmits a signal to areas of the brain such as the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus or the olfactory cortex all of which are part of the limbic system.
Emotions, long term memory, and behavior are functions that are managed by the limbic system.
The strong connections people have between scent and memories, emotions, and places are created through this mechanism of smell. Thus, diffusing essential oils is vital in overcoming fear or trauma and is indispensable in building new and positive memories and experiences.