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Aromatherapy and Aristotle

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Aromatherapy and Aristotle

What’s so essential about the essential oils?

As you are likely aware – Aristotle was a Greek philosopher who lived in ancient Greece between 384-322 BCE. He tutored Alexander the great and is widely hailed as the first genuine scientist in history (know more about Aristotle here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle)

So what’s his connection with Aromatherapy?

Well, Aristotle gave the idea that the world is made up of five elements – four of which are fire, air, water and earth. The fifth element is spirit, soul or life force, also termed as ‘quintessence’. It was believed that quintessence from a plant could be obtained by distillation and evaporation. In those days, the purest extracts from plants were called “quintessential oils” and were used for a range of purposes such as medicine, food, cleaning, lubricants, etc. (Fun fact: Name “spirits” for the distilled alcohols stems from the same idea)

With advances in science, we know that these oils have nothing to do with life force or spirit. These are composed of complex organic substances that offer a host of benefits, if used in the right manner and quantity. Nevertheless, the name has stuck in a slightly contracted form, and we now know these extracts as “Essential oils” (shortened from quintessential). Therefore, the term “Essential” here, does not mean crucial, vital, or necessary. While not as "vital" or "crucial" as the name suggests, essential oils have very potent physical and emotional benefits. These oils are continuing to grow in popularity.

1 Response


May 15, 2016

Interesting! I love essential oils and have been using them for many years but did not know about the origin of the names

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