Scent not only celebrates womanhood, it also cures diseases. Use of aromatic plants is a common practice in traditional Chinese medicine and is widely known as Scent Therapy, or Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy in the old days in China was known as “taking a dose of scent”. People put aromatic herbs in a sachet and took the sachet wherever they went, and they smelt the sachet now and then. In fact, they not only smelt the scent, but took in the essence of the plant.
From the Han Dynasty onwards, aromatherapy has been included in the TCM practices for its health enhancement and disease prevention functions. For a time after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, however, aromatherapy was wronged for being a feudalistic superstition since aroma can neither be seen nor eaten. Nevertheless, its functions cannot be denied. Traditional plant sachets, plant powders and spices are widely recognized as effective in eliminating insects and preventing diseases. So once again, Chinese people began to accept aromatherapy. In 2009, Chinese aromatherapy was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage, which further proves its authenticity and significance.
From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, scent which enters into the body through the mouth, nose and skin pores can improve inner organ functions and regulate qi and blood circulation.
According to modern pharmacology, scent molecules can stimulate the generation of immune globulin, enhance metabolism, regulate neurological functions, cure diseases and invigorate the spirit.
TCM aromatherapy can be further divided into different approaches such as smelling the scent, wearing the scent, drinking the scent, and resting the head on scent-filled pillows. With the help of scent, human body reaches a balance of Yin and Yang, and achieves a better self-repair mechanism. Therefore, the functions of aromatherapy go far beyond curing diseases.
In fact, most aromatic plants are used in medicine, like agalwood, sandalwood, cloves, cinnamon, calamus, borneol, musk and benzoin. They boast different functions such as moistening lungs, enhancing immunity, sterilizing and disinfecting, enhancing the spleen and easing the pain… That is why many aromatic plants are also edible.
According to the Inner Canon of Huangdi, the earliest Chinese medical classics dating from 2,500 years ago, the environment in four seasons has quite a big influence on human health, yet not so big as that of mood. Human beings have five main moods: joy, anger, sorrow, anxiety and fear. Inconstant shifts between the moods or lack of control of certain moods will do much harm to one’s health.
It is also known that scent will make one happy. In the Inner Canon of Huangdi, it is said that scent refreshes the heart. This explains why we always feel calm, joyful and relaxed when we walk into aroma-filled department stores or spas.
To make it brief, quality scent will give people a good mood, a good appetite, sound sleep and a healthy body.
According to records, there were many countries that discovered the benefit of aromatic plants to human health in ancient times. China has used plants to drive away pestilence for 5,000 years. Ancient Babylonians and Assyrians have used aromatic incense to cure diseases for 3,500 years. Egyptians have used skin-beneficial aromatic oil and balm while bathing for 3,350 years. Ancient Greeks and Romans well understood that aromatic plants could make one calm, ease pain and invigorate the mind. The famous Chinese doctor Hua Tuo made sachets with musk and clove to cure phthisis. It is very easy to find a lot of amazing approaches to using aromatic plants for wellness.
The ancient Chinese loved to stay at temples to recover from illness. They not only went there to seek healing from Bodhisattva, but also benefited greatly from the burning incense made of sandalwood and agalwood which is effective in soothing the nerves and curing diseases. Another reason is the large area of plantations in temples. In the Jin Dynasty (266-420), Yongle Temple and Yongfu Temple planted 40 mu of peach blossoms in order to cure people with the flower. Wellness master Zhang Zihe (1151-1231) suggested in Confucians’ Duties to Their Parents: smoothing the blocked energy with orchids. He also used peach blossoms to help patients regain their spirit and enhance their qi and blood.
Shen Kuo(1031-1095) recorded in Mengxi Bitan (Dream Pool Essays) that Emperor Song Zhenzong (968-1022) made styrax wine and gave it to officer Wang Wenzheng, telling him that the wine could enhance the functions of five organs, cure diseases related to the abdomen and advised him to drink a cup when he caught cold. People in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) even made dishes with aromatic plant such as aromatic bread or soup.
In Compendium of Materia Medica – On Aromatic Plants, Li Shizhen (1518-1593) recorded the healing functions of hundreds of aromatic plants: soup made of cyperus rotundus cures rubella, cold and rheumatism; burning agalwood, sandalwood, styrax and benzoin can prevent pestilence.
Today, TCM doctors also cure diseases with aromatic plants. For example, they place the incense of wormwood above a females’ navel to cure a cold womb, above acupoints to smooth the meridians, or above yang meridians on the back to expel cold and cure diseases.
In addition to carrying an aromatic sachet or using aromatic pillows, we can also burn the aroma, eat the aroma, and bathe in the aroma. Burning the aroma means to heat aromatic plants so that the fragrance is volatilized. It has a better effect than sachets and pillows because it delivers a more mellow fragrance. Eating aroma means cooking food with plants such as cinnamon and fennel. It is particularly good for bodies deficient in yang qi. Bathing aroma means to add plant such as rose into a foot basin or bath tub. Rose is gentle in nature and can calm the mind, soothe the nerves and prevent depression.