Guest Post by: Nadim A. Shaath, Ph.D.
In the modern world, our sense of smell is bombarded with, and exhausted by, all the aromas that surround us. Upon awakening, we take baths and showers, lathering ourselves with scented shampoos, soaps, and conditioners, followed by hairspray, gel, and deodorant application, oral hygiene involving toothpastes and mouthwash, and finally, doses of our favorite colognes or perfumes, all of which are scented—mostly with products containing synthetic ingredients. This list goes on throughout the day while cooking, cleaning, in dry-cleaned clothing, in gasoline fumes, and in indoor and outdoor pollution. At the end of the day, the overwhelmed olfactory system is stressed out and in need of rejuvenation. Aromatherapy is a particularly effective means of supplying it.
The medical community has recently begun to evaluate the merits of aromatherapeutic practices employing natural substances. Studies with essential oils have been extensively conducted concerning many common medical issues, including pain management, pregnancy and labor pain, anxiety management, dementia, sleep disorders, stress, nausea, and depression. In these studies, medical issues were treated with essential oils, either as aromas or topical applications, to alleviate the associated symptoms. It was a pleasant surprise for me to discover numerous credible citations in some of the most recent scientific articles, concerning medical aromatherapy as treatment(s).
Use of Natural Products today
While people have made use of natural aromas from plants and flowers since ancient times, modern product formulators have largely overlooked or avoided their inclusion in the fields of medicine, personal care, and cosmetics—until just recently.
The main reasons for the omission were cost, product seasonal variation, skepticism, and lack of knowledge of the marvels of these ingredients that ancient civilizations had unearthed. Essential oils and absolutes are generally much more expensive than their synthetic substitutes. Their prices are high because their production is labor intensive. Take, for example, jasmine. To produce a single kilogram of the prized jasmine absolute, eight million blossoms are required! The labor involved is astronomical. Moreover, natural products are subject to seasonal availability and environmental variability.
Botanical extract quality is affected by rainfall, temperature, sunlight exposure, soil conditions, political instability in the region and crop failures. The risks involved with natural botanicals’ availability and quality consistency, compared to the reliably steady and inexpensive supply of synthetic petrochemical derivatives, once outweighed the charm of Mother Nature’s aromatic gifts. Currently, however, natural botanicals are increasing in popularity, and with good reason. There has been a call loud enough to bring natural botanicals back onto the main stage for an encore.
There is often a desire to use natural oils in beauty products simply for their fragrances. However, aromatherapy and natural-medicine practitioners promote the use of specific plants and oils for their therapeutic effects. These natural oils may be viewed as luxuries that are also remedies, with properties that can influence mood, kill bacteria, cure infections, or soothe irritated skin. This general aromatherapeutic awareness has worked its way into consumers’ consciousness.
My journey throughout the world has raised my awareness of the complexities of producing essential oils, absolutes, and aromatherapy ingredients and nutrients. I felt compelled to write a book on the topic entitled Healing Civilizations: The Search for Therapeutic Essential Oils and Nutrients (Cameron + Company, Petaluma, California, 2017) to catalog those healing botanical ingredients that our ancient civilizations discovered and are still commercially available today. I recite historic developments and how humanity has progressed so that we may learn from the past and apply its lessons to improve our future. Medical scientists and university laboratories are beginning to conduct serious and unbiased aromatherapy research, and hospitals and clinical researchers are beginning to use these oils and ingredients in their daily medicinal practices. Currently, aromatherapy has surpassed its New Age role as a meditational component for inducing relaxation and overcoming stress; aromatherapy has become a mainstream practice affecting every aspect of daily life.
For more information on my book visit www.healingcivilization.com