Friday, September 26, 2014

Is that aromatherapy stuff?

Frequently someone will be prancing past my little display of soap goodies and say, “oh, is that aromatherapy stuff?” Well strictly speaking, no it’s not. But on the other hand, yes, it very much is. I’ll explain.

The real question: is it aromatherapy or does it just smell good? Or what is aromatherapy really?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “aromatherapy” as: “the use of natural oils that have a pleasant smell to make a person feel better.”

More specifically, it’s the use of natural plant oils – essential oils, compounds, extracts or absolutes – for psychological and physical well-being.  They can be inhaled, added to a bath, or used in massage oils and rubbed onto the body.

It was the French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who coined the term “aromatherapie” in 1937 with the publication of his book by that same name. Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy describes early clinical findings on using essential oils for a range of physiological ailments. It’s clear that his intention was to differentiate the medicinal application of essential oils from perfumery.

 This new method was the therapeutic treatment or the medicinal use of aromatic substances - essential oils of plants - for holistic healing. As the practice of aromatherapy has progressed over the years, it has adopted a more holistic approach encompassing the healing of not just the body, but mind and spirit too.
"Aromatherapy is... the skilled and controlled use of essential oils for physical and emotional health and well being."  Valerie Cooksley
"Aromatherapy is a caring, hands-on therapy which seeks to induce relaxation, to increase energy, to reduce the effects of stress and to restore lost balance to mind, body and soul."  Robert Tisserand

So, are Soapworks Studio products actually aromatherapeutic? Yes, in the broadest sense.  If you are using a bar of soap or any of the other goodies, and you think the fragrance smells wonderful, you are enjoying the experience, and you feel better afterwards, then it’s accomplished the basic tenets of aromatherapy. A person’s sense of smell is processed in the part of the brain right next to the place where memories are stored. Which is why so often a particular scent will immediately take you back to a place in time (“oh my gosh, that smells exactly like my grandmother’s house!”). The smell of something will trigger a powerful memory or is tied to a specific experience and emotion. And if the whiff results in you feeling happy, joyful, relaxed, calm or any other positive emotion, then you are experiencing an aromatherapy benefit.

Conversely, I cannot claim that I have designed any one of these products to specifically evoke some kind of medicinal healing. Yes, the lavender spray is the perfect way to apply the soothing, relaxing aromatherapy benefits of lavender oil to yourself or your room. But mostly I’ve combined scents together in a more casual way, because they smell good to me, and they make a pleasant scent to bathe in. Not because I’m following some rules in a guidebook to be used in a therapeutic treatement plan, or to evoke specific reactions for individual body systems or mental issues.

At the end of the day, for me it’s all about enjoyment and pleasure. Everyone has such varied reactions to smells and it’s a bit unpredictable, really. I make the stuff I like the best, and the stuff you guys have liked the best, and hope that we’re all having a better day when we get sudsing in it. Simple things.