Book Review: The Little Book of AromatherapySusannah Kent May 1, 2010
Author: Kathi Keville
Publisher: Crossing Press Book
Although the term ‘aromatherapy’ was only coined in the 1920s, the use of essential oils has been around for centuries. The ancient cultures of China and Egypt used aromatic plants for well-being. And it is believed that some perfumers in the 14th Century avoided infection from the Black Plague due to their contact with natural aromatics. If, like many, you have only associated aromatherapy with indulgent spa treatments, you’ll be interested to know that The Little Book of Aromatherapy by Kathie Keville, an internationally recognized herbalist and aromatherapist, offers some invaluable information that dispels this misconception – revealing aromatherapy to be a means to improving a multitude of physical and emotional health disorders.
Keville’s simple, engaging prose entices and educates, allowing the reader to appreciate and comprehend the rich history and multitude of beneficial applications of aromatherapy, “the use of essential oils – potent aromatic substances extracted from fragrant plants – for physical and emotional healing.”
Keville provides some interesting and useful background information including: what are essential oils; their historical significance; how to extract them; relative cost; how to get started using them; safety tips; and relevant research into their efficacy (how fragrance affects emotion). With respect to the latter, we learn that “researchers studying aromachology – the science of medical aromas – have discovered that exposure to aromatic substances results in an alteration of brain waves.” Smell, more so than any other sense is, in fact, linked to the parts of the brain (limbic system) that process emotion and associative learning that is vital to our behaviour, mood, and memory. With this in mind, it is not surprising to learn from Kelville that some “psychologists incorporate aromatherapy into their practice.”
The Little Book of Aromatherapy offers insight into the many applications of aromatherapy, such as how to treat anxiety, depression, menopause, muscle cramps, fleas, teething, indigestion, hair and skin care, and even the use of essential oils as aphrodisiacs. Each of these entries includes formulas that you can make safely and competently on your own. The descriptions, explanations and preparation guidelines are clear and easy to follow. The only caveat here is that this book seems at times to imply that aromatherapy is suitable for any health issue imaginable. However, while Keville does say that “aromatherapy is an excellent resource for mind and body health,” she never implies it is a cure-all.
At the end of the book, the budding aromatherapist will find a handy aromatherapy glossary, and a guide for the most common essential oils (Materia Medica). The oils are described in detail with their origin, composition, emotional and physical healing applications, and cosmetic/skin use.
If you want to know more about essential oils, The Little Book of Aromatherapy is an excellent place to start. This well-written, vastly informative book will help you understand and appreciate the value of aromatherapy – particularly as an alternative to the many commercial, often toxic, household, skin and hair care products currently available on the market.
Susannah Kent is a Toronto area Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Instructor.