......aromatherapy has gone global. In the 1980s Aromatherapy conferences that are still remembered well were held in the UK and among the speakers were authors like Robert Tisserand, Valerie Worwood, Shirley Price and of course many other distinguished individuals. In that time aromatherapy also jumped over the British Channel and established strong roots in Germany where a company by the name of Primavera Life became very active not just in providing essential oils but also organizing educational events and conferences.
In 1990 the American Aromatherapy Association held a well attended, groundbreaking conference in Santa Monica, arguably the first major aromatherapy event in the US. The 1990s were also the time when aromatherapy generally expanded to urban centers in the English speaking world. Along the trails of the old Empire aromatherapy moved from London to places like Toronto, Singapore or Sidney. Finally, in the new Millennium, aromatherapy became an industry. In the1980s the percentage of the worldwide essential oil production that went into aromatherapy was probably less than 5%. With todays corporate players in the field, one can only guess that the essential oil usage for the purposes of aromatherapy has sky-rocketed. The issues arising from the new volume of essential oil trade and consumption merit an extra column. Today, I would like to focus on the cultural aspects of a globalized aromatherapy.
There are now aromatherapy conferences and trade shows in China. In Japan people have been interested in aromatherapy for a long time also. In Indonesia essential oils have been produced for a long time for purposes other than aromatherapy, but by now the aromatherapy fascination has also reached the urban centers of the archipelago. This global rise in interest for the powers of essential oils merits closer examination as to the associated cultural phenomena.
As we look at the trends of 2019 aromatherapy we see that many friends of aromatherapy in the East are interested in the oils from the West and especially from Provence because those are the classic oils of aromatherapy. But simultaneously aromatherapy also stimulates, in all areas of the world, interest in local oils and how they fit into the framework of aromatherapy. I have maintained that the classic oils of Europe often are from green leafy plants and the classic oils of Asia often are from rhizomes, resins and trees. If this is an expression of different climates in different parts of the world and whether or not this reflects in the character or preferences of people that live in these different climates remains a question which can be hotly discussed.
To approach the global character of aromatherapy in a playful fashion we will, in future posts, visit six distinct areas and their characteristic oils, which we believe are representative for their regions of origin and are used by the people of that region for their specific healing properties.
Lavender is our first example. Its cultivation was introduced to Haute Provence in the beginning of the 20th century. In the process Lavender cultivation became central to the local agriculture and the farmers gathered extensive experience how to produce different types of Lavender oil. Specific clones became popular and Lavandin became a dominant feature in the landscape of Haute Provence.
More detail on the different types of Provencale Lavenders can be found in my February 12th piece: “My Favorite Oils.”
Lavandin: Aromatherapy Workhorse
Today most of the areas of Provence cultivated with some form of Lavender are planted with different types of Lavandin, a hybrid between True (Lavandula angustifolia) and Spike Lavender (Lavandula spica).
This has not always been so. Prior to the WWI era, Lavender oil was mostly produced from wild plants in the French and Italian Alps. Given the poverty of the soil at higher elevations of Provence and the dire economic situation after WWI local farmers looked for a crop that could produce extra income. They found that cash crop first in Lavender and soon thereafter also in different Lavandin hybrids.
The history Lavender and Lavandin cultivation on the plateaux of Provence is a fascinating story that tells us much about the often mysterious or serpentine interactions of people and aromatic plants.
Among the different Lavandins, Lavandin super is the most easily accessible and useful one. Its high content of the calming linalyl acetate (an ester component) gives it a soothing quality, without taking away a very mild tingle. The oil is very useful as a calming and anti-inflammatory component for blending, that can be used in larger proportions due to its favorable cost. It is also a good oil to use in the shower, it can be splattered over wet skin for an immediate sensation of well being.
Further reading in Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: Lavandins in Provence, page 88. Lavandin in the Shower page 125.
© 2019 Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy