In all cases the following is noted: rapid disappearance of pus; decrease in the number of bacteria; powerful stimulation of healing; recovery in a very short time. It is as though the physiological matter receives an added dynamism causing the pathological phenomena to abate immediately.
The work of Gattefosse was taken up by Marguerite Maury (1895-1968) in France after the Second World War. Mme Maury was a dedicated and inspired woman who did much to establish the reputation of aromatherapy. She set up the first aromatherapy clinics in Paris, Britain and Switzerland and was awarded two international prizes (in 1962 and 1967 respectively) for her studies on essential oils and cosmetology. In her research work she focused on the rejuvenating properties of essential oils, the results of which were published in English as The Secret of Life and Youth (1964). From her writing it is clear that she valued lavender primarily as a skin care agent and a ‘restorer of balance’, but also as a nerve tonic:
In cases of great exhaustion, of fatigue caused by physical effort, or excessive barometric changes, a friction with pure lavender essences without spirits works wonders.4
Mme Maury also emphasized the psychological impact of fragrance and the importance of choosing the correct oils for each patient so as to make a personalized blend or ‘individual prescription’. Her work in many ways set the tone for aromatherapy as it developed in the UK, not only as a beauty therapy with its emphasis on skin care, but also as a treatment for stress and nervous/emotional disorders.
For in Britain, unlike France, aromatic oils are used principally by ‘complementary’ practitioners – notably by aromatherapists – and increasingly by nurses working in hospital wards. This helps to explain why the majority of ‘field’ studies carried out in the UK have been undertaken by independent researchers or by nurses, rather than by medical doctors as in France. Such studies have tended to concentrate on the nervine, analgesic and sedative properties of lavender oil, applied externally through massage, baths or simply by inhalation.
Lavender is an oil which has undergone a considerable amount of research in the past few years, and is in fact the most frequently used essential oil in hospitals in the UK today:
In one Oxford hospital, lavender oil has been used for a number of years to help patients sleep at night, either by giving them a lavender bath or by sprinkling a little oil on their bedclothes. Lavender has also been used to enhance analgesia (pain-relief) in cases of arthritis, muscular tension and muscle spasm One patient who had an amputation below the knee enjoyed almost complete relief from pain for 90 minutes after being massaged on his upper leg with diluted lavender oil. In addition, the scent of lavender was found to help patients relax before surgery and prolong the effect of any pre-operative medication.