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I have just returned from a trip to Norway where the forces of nature are plain to see! Magnificent deep fjords cut into the landscape and sculpt the coastline, having been carved out by glaciers over a period of 2.5 million years. This is something both unique and awe-inspiring! To my mind, the Scandinavians have always managed to maintain a healthy relationship with the natural world and to uphold a profound respect for it. Even in the centre of the Oslo, the wilderness is always within easy reach and the sea is never far away.

Here is an except from a talk which I gave recently in Oslo about the value of using essential oils as part of our everyday life, especially as a form of preventative treatment. Here I trace the roots of modern aromatherapy back to the nature cure or naturopathy movement, founded by Hippocrates in 400 BC:

'The birth of aromatherapy is usually attributed to the French biochemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who first coined the term in his book ‘Aromatherapie’, published in 1937. Following an accident in his laboratory, he found that neat lavender oil was able to effectively heal a severe chemical burn, leaving no scarring. This inspired him to explore the therapeutic properties of essential oils further and led him to extol and praise their value as natural remedies.

But if we to go back to the real origins of aromatherapy, we could say it has it’s roots in much earlier traditions. In fact we can trace the use of essential oils back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptian and Far Eastern civilizations. Remains of aromatic elixirs have even been discovered in primitive perfume containers dating back as far as 3500 BC in Mesopotamia.

However, the underlying principles of aromatherapy as we know it today could be said to be based in the naturopathic or nature cure movement, which was first established around 400 BC by the influential Greek philosopher Hippocrates. According to the ‘Hippocratic School of Medicine‘ nature itself is the physician of disease’ since Hippocrates believed that our body has the capacity to heal itself, given the right conditions. Good health is therefore the expression of a harmonious balance between human nature, the environment and the individual’s way of life. He also considered that is was important to view the whole person when identifying the cause of a particular disease, and then to work with the laws of nature to induce a cure.

Hippocrates maintained that we are a part of nature and our very existence depends on a healthy inter-relationship with our wider planet. Consequently, wellbeing and longevity can only be achieved by living in accordance with this principle and should be fostered through proper nutrition, rest, sunshine, exercise, fasting and the use of herbal treatments. He advocated a daily aromatic bath and massage using essential oils – a form of preventative treatment that would put most of us in seventh heaven directly! Medicine, religion and science at this time were intimately related and humankind was seen holistically: as a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being.

Today we are experiencing a massive revival of the principals of so called ‘alternative’ medicine …in fact all holistic treatments, including aromatherapy, subscribe to the basic belief in the body’s own innate intelligence to heal itself. Central to naturopathy are the following principles:

1) Prevention is better than cure! Another words, it is vital to identify and prevent the cause of a condition, rather than simply dealing with the symptom.

2) Good health is the natural outcome of everyday lifestyle choices rather than medication.

3) It is important to empower each individual to take responsibility for his or her own health by teaching self-care.

I myself have strived in writing many self-care books over the past 30 years, to fulfill this final statement, by educating the larger public on how to use essential oils effectively and safely at home. In fact I think I have been an instinctual naturopath all my life - I am also a self-confessed nature devotee, only use plants or aromatic oils as medicine and certainly believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. I was also brought up in the Finnish sauna tradition - and the sauna is the perfect example of caring for oneself in a wholly naturalistic fashion.

With the recognition that we now need to urgently change our way of life and adopt a new paradigm for living, more and more people are looking to beliefs and traditions that uphold a more naturalistic way of living as an inspiration – those that respect the planet on which we live, support our eco-systems and environment, encourage sustainability and uphold individual responsibility. Aromatherapy encourages a back-to-nature approach to health and wellbeing, since it is a 100% botanically based therapy which has been used for thousands of years. But it is also a very forward-looking practice - in that the essential oils themselves are valuable, natural remedies perfectly adapted for our modern world – compact, pleasurable, versatile, pure and potent.'