The term »aromatherapy« was first coined in 1928 by Gattefosse, a French chemist working in his family's perfume business. He became fascinated with the therapeutic possibilities of the oils. The main active ingredients in aromatherapy are pure essential oils which can be inhaled, vapourised, used in baths, diluted with vegetable oils and used topically. Each essential oil has an individual combination of constituents which interact with the body's chemistry in a direct manner and in turns affects certain organs or systems as a whole.
This action can be demonstrated by rubbing a clove of garlic on the soles of the feet. The volatile oil content will be taken into the blood and the odour will appear on the breath a little while later. It is therefore very important to recognize that essential oils have three distinct modes of action with regard to how they inter-relate with the human body: pharmacological, physiological and psychological. With the relation to the first two points, aromatherapy has a great deal in common with the tradicion of medical herbalism or phytotherapy. It is not simply the aroma which is important but also the chemical interaction between the oils and the body.