Aromatherapy is not just “perfume” . There is an actual scientific basis for how and why it works for people and animals. Allow me to present some history, facts and yes the science behind aromatherapy and the use of essential oils as a complimentary therapy. It is an extensive study and cannot be adaquately summerized in one blog. So for now we will begin with the Ancients.
Plants are the basis for modern pharmocology. Hieroglyphics documents some of the earliest proof of humans using plants to combat illness. In each ancient civilization there is evidence of using plants for healing purposes. The knowledge of the healing power of plants was learned, and passed down from generation to generation of practionersby word of mouth.
Egyptians, created an ancient remedy called Kyphi. It was a blend of aromatic plant extracts, which was used in religious ceremonies, to purify the air and the body, and prevent the spread of disease. Myrrh was taken into battle by ancient Egyptian soldiers as a wound dressing.
Frankinsense and Myrrh were offered to baby Jesus, according to the Bible. Both have strong antiseptic properties and healing compounds, but are also known for great spritual value. Frankinsense lifts the spirits when experiencing feelings of loss and soothes the soul. Myrrh is an ingredient in ancient embalming for its ability to preserve the body and the soul
In the book of Exodus, God directed an annointing oil to be used by the priests however also dictated that it could only be made by a “perfumist”. The recipe called for oils like cinnamon and cassia , and others, which are highly anti microbial and would help heal the sick while protecting the priest.
During the time of the spread of the Roman Empire, much was learned about the use of plants and plant extracts for healing from other regions. Discorides, a roman “doctor” compiled detailed information and created a ‘book” called De Materia Medica, on the use of indigious plants and herbal remedies.
The fall of the Roman Empire created an means of the extensive resource of doctors and scientist to spread to other countries and share their knowledge and skills. Plant remedies became valued as bartering commodities in the new world. During this time an Arabian , Avicenna refined the method of extraction via distillation. He studied and documented the thereapeutic effects of various plants in great detail.
The Crusades enabled the knowledge of herbalism to spread as they brought back healing plants and remedies from the Holy Land. The knights brought back sophisticated methods of extraction, a higher understanding of the use of plants and new species.
In each era the use of plants and herbalism grew and became more and more sophisticated and doumented. In the 1600’s Culpepper, wrote “The Complete Herbal” which is still used today as a reference for modern herbal remedies.
In the early 20th century, Rene Gattefosse, a french chemist whosfamily operated a large perfumery, burnt his arm in the lab from a small explosion. With out thinking he plunged his hand into the nearest vat of liquid, which was a vat of Lavender Oil. He later documented that immediately he felt a relief from the burn, the healing process was more rapid, he suffered no infection and healed with out any scarring. Gattefosse, rediscoverd the healing power of plants and coined the phrase “aromatherape” or “healing smells”. He also reffered to the plant extracts as “oils” mainly because they separated in water.
This facillitated the pharmaceutical advances that could analyse the complex chemical nature of plants. Each plant was discovered to have unique chromotology depending on the species, and the growing conditions in the origin of the plant. The chemical compounds were able to be isolated and measured.
Marguerite Maury, brought the use of essential oils to Britian. She studied the works of Dr. Jean Valnet, the father of modern medical use of essential oils. Marguerite used the oils in her beautician work, and was the first to blend them in a synergistic way. She matched the gender, age and temperment of her clients to the properties of the essential oils and custom blended. Realizing that one person may respond differently to the application of a particular oil than another with the same ailment. This Holistic synergy is the alchemy and the artistry of blending essential oils. This leads us to the use of essential oils for horses.
Undoubtably as the ancients used the healing power of plants on humans, they also cared for their animals ailments with the only resources they had as well. Hawthorn berry was used in the movie “Seabiscuit” to improve the circulation and help to heal a horse wiht a broken foot. The ancients in charge of the care and treating the wounds of the war horses, or the work horses, or even the livestock kept for food would have used the resources available and with the understanding of how they worked on humans and applied it to animals.
Horses and plants are so congruent. Their instinct tells them which plants will help balance thier systems and provide relief or healing. This is why they have such a strong reaction and preferance when offered the choice of single note essential oils or a synergetic blend. Understanding their choices allows us to created the synergy needed, by the blending of the oils that bests fosters a holistic approach to utilizing aromatherapy and essential oils in modern horse care.
The next blog will explain what exactly are essential oils, their properties and why they should be used as a means of managing your horses well being.
*references. Essential Oils for Horses by Carole Faith: Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D. : Aromatherapy by Dr. Jean Valnet