Incense — Aromatherapy — Ayurveda — Natural herbal essences — indigenous medical system — floral extracts

Incense, Aromatherapy and Ayurveda

Aromatherapy, as a term, was coined by French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefossé in 1937. However, the therapeutic use of herbal essences can be traced back to the earliest periods of civilization in India, Egypt and China.

Aromatherapy, has been used in Vedic India. Floral and other herbal essences have been in continuous use by the indigenous medical system, Ayurveda, since time immemorial. Western and Indian chronologies disagree on the exact timeline for this traditional medical system, but scholars agree that extant classics such as the Charaka and Sushruta Samhitas, dating back thousands of years, are mere recensions and compilations of much earlier knowledge.

Ayurvedic physicians utilized herbal essences profusely for both mental and physical therapies. According to Ayurvedic pharmacology, the intrinsic qualities of flowers and other herbs allow for the selection of precise single or compound remedies to bring harmony to each individual. Such qualities include taste, energetic potential, post-assimilation effect, and specific action (rasa, virya, vipaka and prabhava).

Carefully formulated herbal preparations are used in Ayurveda to prevent infection, purify the environment, and stimulate prana, the vital force and scents are used effectively in Ayurveda to restore harmony to the phycho-physical constitution and increase the mode of goodness, or sattva.

The Egyptians documented their utilization of essential oils by 3,500 BCE, although records point to their use for thousands of years prior to that date. Egyptians used spikenard, oregano, citrus fruits, myrrh, frankincense, cedar and styrax to great therapeutic advantage. Some researchers speculate that Egyptian spikenard, a member of the same family as valerian, must have been a primary constituent in the fragrant ointment used by Mary Magdalen to annoint the feet of Jesus before the Last Supper.

Chinese Traditional Medicine, the second oldest medical system in continuous practice, makes use of a sophisticated pharmacology based on taste, energetic classifications, and the Five Element theory, strongly reminiscent of Ayurveda.

As in its Indian counterpart, single and compound remedies are utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine to tonify deficiencies and reduce excesses, thus restoring harmony to the system.

European usage of medicinal scents can be traced back to the medical schools of the Greeks and Romans, who used fumigations and other applications of volatile oils for various therapeutic purposes, both for physical and mental disorders. In the management of epidemics, the use of fumigation was considered of primary importance as far back as the Hippocratic era.

It was, however, Dr. Gattefossé who re-discovered and gave new impetus to aroma therapy in the West, when he accidentally healed a burn with oil of lavender in 1928. After almost a decade of further experimentation and research, in 1937 he published his book, Aromatherapie, which was received with incredulity and ridicule by the medical community of that time. However, the last 25 years have seen a slow but significant move toward greater acceptance of Aromatherapy by both lay and professional practitioners, as well as the public.

Inhalation and fumigation, two of the main modes of administration of this ancient healing modality, are easily and effectively achieved through the use of natural scents. Because such fragrances can be used environmentally or for targeted applications, it has become the aromatherapy of choice for countless millions throughout the planet.

Daily use of natural Indian masala fragrances, prevents disease, promotes longevity, harmonizes the psycho-physical constitution, and increases mental clarity.

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