Here is the missing link in Essential Oil literature, the first modern work written by the man who coined the word 'Aromatherapy. This led him into a lifetime of research into Essential Oils. His remarkable book was first published in and has been out of print for many years. Now translated, it has been edited by Robert Tisserand, author of three books on aromatherapy including the best-seller, The Art of Aromatherapy , editorial adviser of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and editor of The International Journal of Aromatherapy.
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He was later amazed at how quickly his burn healed and with very little scarring. This started a fascination with essential oils and inspired him to experiment with them during the First World War on soldiers in the military hospitals. The above version appears, word-for-word, on several websites, and the same basic tale on many.
The story is basically correct, apart from the instinctual plunging of the hand into the nearest available liquid, which is total fiction.
Anyway, who leaves large containers of lavender oil lying around unlidded? Yes, he burned his hand in his laboratory and yes, he treated it with lavender oil, but this was not a eureka-like, lucky-chance moment. It would be great if it was true. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene.
This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day July His application of lavender oil was clearly an intentional act, and the result impressed him greatly, and possibly saved his life.
It was a special moment for him, and for aromatherapy. Gas gangrene is a potentially fatal infection, and was the cause of many amputations and deaths in the First World War. It is caused by infection of a wound, most commonly by Clostridium perfringens. Onset is rapid and dramatic though it normally takes days from the time of infection , with bacterial toxins causing tissue death and subcutaneous swelling and gas.
Sweating is one of the early symptoms of infection. While the incident did not initiate his study of aromatherapy, it was certainly a strong hint — a definite push in a direction he was already headed. Subsequently he collaborated with a number of doctors who treated French soldiers for war wounds using lavender and other essential oils. The accounts of these cases constitute a large part of his text. Microbiological research shows that a number of essential oils are active against strains of Clostridium perfringens including winter savory Satureja Montana lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus lemon myrtle Backhousia citriodora lemon tea tree Leptospermum petersoni i and tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia.
Some of these are being given to factory-farmed chicken, which are susceptible to Clostridium perfringens- related disease. It also helped make him famous, and we still remember the incident years later.
Serendipity, however you look at it. International Journal of Food Microbiology CW Daniel, Saffron Walden, p Shanmugavelu S, Ruzickova G, Zrustova J et al A fermentation assay to evaluate the effectiveness of antimicrobial agents on gut microflora. Journal of Microbiological Methods Phytotherapy Research Fitoterapia Eager for the next one!!! Thanks once again Robert. Websites are even worse and its very difficult to find any aromatherapy information without having to look at lots of flashing ads, so another reason I find your blogs refreshing.
This story of his burn was, as you said, repeated verbatim from one book to another and some books with different versions, none of which was correct as you have written here.
Perhaps you know more about gas gangrene and can enlighten me. Perhaps it does spread instantaneously, but it just seemed very odd to me. Ann, I agree that websites are indeed worse than books. Misinformation can spread so rapidly. It sounds like it was all in a matter of hours, but maybe not. What a great article! I have always wondered about this story — for exactly the reason you write — who leaves an open container of essential oil lying about?
Thanks for clearing this up. I appreciate your precise explanation of the true story. Very funny. Thanks Robert. The moment I first saw this myth I was too surprised. Healing happened the next two or three days and I was required to put neat lavender oil onto my injury continuously to take the healing process to the max.
And all written works are prone to exaggeration. Thanks Robert!! Thanks again Sylla. Gattefosse believed that monoterpenes were very strong irritants, and he therefore labelled them as being toxic. Because monoterpenes are inflammable, he believed that they could oxidize very rapidly, and I think here lies his confusion. Bursting into flame when heated should not be confused with auto-oxidation, a very much slower process.
Monoterpenes have some very useful properties which G. Hi just found your site and loved your article, wondering if you could comment on Gas Chromatatography I think testing of oils for medicinal quality assurance. Have been told that there are different grades of oil and depending how they are processed will lose their healing qualities and be good for perfume, or food grade. Thank you again for your information. Grades — there are pharmaceutical grades BP or USP for a few essential oils mostly used for making medicines taste better and there are food grades FCC , intended for the use of essential oils as food flavorings.
There are ISO International Organization of Standardization standards for many essential oils, and these are widely used in the essential oil industry. Essential oils will lose their healing qualities if they are allowed to oxidize.
Citrus oils are the most prone to oxidation. Hi Robert, Quick question on the oxidation re: citrus oils. Is this what makes then especially reactive to plastic? I ask because I have a diffuser which has the plastic bowl to put water and EO in, and was advised not to use citrus as it would corrode the plastic quickly over time.
Really enjoyed the article! Never heard of this story. Loved reading it! Hi Karlie, over time most essential oils will eat away at most plastics, but only if they are undiluted. It does depend on the type of plastic. As far as I know, citrus oils are not especially potent in this regard. They are very good solvents for cleaning, as are pine oils, but I have seen clove oil, tea tree oil and others eat plastic.
Hi Robert I hope you are doing well. Thanks for your attention. When applied to an essential oil, it means that various single aroma chemicals have been blended to create something similar to the natural oil. Each time I read that story whether online or one of the several aromatherapy books, I questioned why would one dip his hand into a vat of unknown liquid especially a scientist.
Thank you so much for setting this record straight sharing the link on Facebook. Visit The Tisserand Institute for the latest from Robert Tisserand in the science and the effective, safe and sustainable use of essential oils in all aspects of aromatherapy. Rebeca Ledersnaider on April 24, at pm. Ann Wooledge on April 25, at pm. Anya on April 25, at pm. Robert Tisserand on April 25, at pm. Lise on April 26, at am. Andrea Butje on May 10, at am. NY on May 10, at pm. Sylla Sheppard Hanger on January 22, at am.
Elizabeth Nicholas on February 27, at am. Karlie on September 24, at am. Vera Lucia Guedes on January 15, at am. Maria on May 26, at am. Search for:. The Tisserand Institute Visit The Tisserand Institute for the latest from Robert Tisserand in the science and the effective, safe and sustainable use of essential oils in all aspects of aromatherapy.
Gas gangrene is a potentially fatal condition, and was the cause of many amputations and deaths in the First World War. It is caused by infection of a wound, most commonly by Clostridium perfringens. Onset is rapid and dramatic though it normally takes days from the time of infection , with bacterial toxins causing tissue death and subcutaneous swelling and gas. Sweating is one of the early symptoms of infection. Subsequently he collaborated with a number of doctors who treated French soldiers for war wounds using lavender and other essential oils. The accounts of these cases constitute a large part of his text. He talks about oral, rectal, inhalational and injection they had all been used by then and continues: "Why not add cutaneous absorption to this list?
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Aromatherapy is a pseudoscience based on the usage of aromatic materials, including essential oils , and other aroma compounds , with claims for improving psychological or physical well-being. Aromatherapists, people who specialize in the practice of aromatherapy, utilize blends of supposedly therapeutic essential oils that can be used as topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion. There is no good medical evidence that aromatherapy can either prevent, treat, or cure any disease. There is disputed evidence that it may be effective in combating postoperative nausea and vomiting.