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Aromatherapy versus aromachology

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 Although aromatherapy and aromachology are similar sounding words that relate to the effects of scent, they have different roots and objectives.


Aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of essential oils, dates back to ancient Egyptian cultures, although the term itself wasn't coined until much later, by the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé. Back in 1910, Gattefossé badly burned his hands following an explosion in his laboratory. He treated the wounds with lavender essential oil, which halted the spread of gangrenous sores on his skin. He then went on to write several books on the benefits of essential oils, including Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales in 1937. The book was later translated into English, giving birth to the name aromatherapy. Fellow Frenchman, Doctor Jean Valnet, also penned a book, called Aromathérapie, documenting his extensive use of essential oils to treat soldiers during World War II.

As well as the body, essential oils are also known for their positive effects on the mind and spirit. For instance, lavender can help to alleviate stress, and rosemary improves cognitive performance, while ylang ylang has the ability to relieve depression.

The word aromachology is a derivation of aroma and physio-psychology, which was conceived by the Olfactory Research Fund (now the Sense of Smell Institute) in 1982. Unlike aromatherapy, the practice of aromachology can utilise chemical fragrances to create its desired scent. And rather than searching for any healing benefits, aromachology is a science that focuses on the psychological effects that an odour has on the brain.

This information is then used to develop such products as perfumes, cleaning products and shampoos. The practice is also employed in the commercial world. Examples of 'scent marketing' include cinemas piping the smell of popcorn into the foyer, while the M&M World store in Leicester Square is artificially enhanced with the enticing whiff of chocolate to attract passersby. But the funniest story we've heard is how Hamleys toy store fills its aisles with the intoxicating aroma of piña coladas to transport adults away from 'frazzled parent' to 'reclining in a deckchair - with drink in hand', meaning they are happier to linger in the store. And the longer a customer stays in a store, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

Personally, I'd be more inclined to spend my money in a shop that was handing out actual piña coladas...

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