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In Aromatherapie, Gattefosse cites numerous case histories involving a variety of conditions including battle injuries, burns, varicose ulcers, venereal sores, gangrene and atonic wounds which were treated almost exclusively with pure lavender oil (or in a solution), with excellent results. He concludes:
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:
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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.
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