Updated 12 June 2013

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy simply means "a therapy using aromas". It is an ancient natural and holistic therapy using selected aromatic oils for their therapeutic effect.


Aromatherapy simply means “a therapy using aromas”. It is an ancient natural and holistic therapy using especially selected aromatic oils for their therapeutic effect on the mind, body and soul. The aromas come from the plant kingdom – from flowers, trees, bushes, and herbs.

Aromatherapy "arrived" in South Africa in the early 1980s. It is one of the most popular and fastest growing complementary therapies in the world.

A brief history of aromatherapy

Aromatic substances played important roles in the medicinal practices of the Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Chinese and Indian civilisations. Aromatherapy was born with the ancient Egyptians and we have records dating back to 4500 BC which tell of the use of balsamic substances, perfumed oils, scented barks and resins, spices as well as aromatic vinegars, wines and beers, in medicine, liturgy, astrology and embalming.

The biochemist Marguerite Maury (1895-1968), “the mother of aromatherapy”, rekindled the ancient art of combining aromatic oils with massage and explored the benefits of the oils for beauty and health. She also studied the effects of the oils on emotions and moods. She opened clinics in France, Switzerland and England. Right up to the time of her death she trained many therapists in the special techniques which she had developed. Her pioneering work has been largely responsible for the greatly increased interest in aromatherapy today.

Who can benefit from aromatherapy?

Almost everyone! Many of us, with our over-committed lifestyles, are just too busy to be sick and find it wise to manage our stress levels by having regular aromatherapy sessions. Pure essential oils work holistically and can help us cope with nervous tension and mood swings, indigestion and constipation, PMS and menopause, rheumatism and muscular aches and pains. In fact, the uses for aromatherapy are endless.

Your first aromatherapy treatment

Your aromatherapist will ask you detailed questions about your health, lifestyle and emotional state to discover where you might have problems, e.g. back, cellulite, anxiety. If you are already being treated for a medical condition, please check with your doctor before having aromatherapy.

However, you might just simply wish to enjoy a unique treatment to smooth away the stresses of everyday life in the warm, tranquil privacy of your aromatherapist’s room. In this way, you are embarking on a preventative healthcare routine, as health is a profound sense of wellbeing and not just the absence of disease.

The actual treatment will last around 75 minutes for a full aromatherapy massage and your aromatherapist will provide you with specific, individual after-care advice.

What is aromatherapy massage?

It is a method in itself and was developed from a variety of body treatment techniques, which together form a unique touch therapy enhancing the effectiveness of the aromatic, essential oils. Relax and enjoy!

This article was written by Claudia Oliver, a qualified aromatherapist, reflexologist and reiki master. For more information on aromatherapy, contact Claudia on  (011) 465 3038 or e-mail her at

 - (Photo of massage from Shutterstock)


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