on 9 January 2005
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2nd Edition, 2003)
Paperback 606 pages
By: Salvatore Battaglia
Publisher: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy
ISBN: 0 646 42896 9
This book is truly one of the modern masterwork in Aromatherapy. In a space of 606 pages spanning 7 units and 8 appendices, Battaglia manages to provide the reader with not just an overview or a taster, but a good solid helping of what it is that makes aromatherapy.
The book ranges from the background, which introduces the history of aromatherapy, the extraction of essential oils and the issues of quality control and quality assurance; through essential issues in aromatherapy, which looks to the role of scientific research into essential oils, the chemistry of oils, the pharmacology, psychology and pharmacokinetics of the oil and essential oil safety; through to practical matters such as the requirement for practice, the consultation, the art of blending, methods of administration and even a consideration of the holistic approach to prescribing essential oils.
The best part of the book must be the monographs of more than 60 essential oils, ranging from the more common oils (e.g., lavender) to the exotic oils (e.g. galangal) and even to the hazardous essential oils such as thuja. For each of the oils, Battaglia gives not only the botanical name and family, but also the synonyms, the origins of the oil, the method of extraction, the physical characteristics of the oil, the historical and traditional uses of the plant, the chemical composition, the results of some pharmacological and clinical studies, the therapeutic actions and how they relate to the various systems in the body. There are also short sections on method of administration and safety issues with the oils. Battaglia also brings in personality profiles (what personalities are aided by the oils) as well as the energetic properties of the oil (whether the oil was heaty, cooling, very much analyzing the oil on a Traditional Chinese Medicine approach.) For these energetic properties, extensive reference was made to Gabriel Mojay's book, which is mentioned by Candie above. For each monograph there is a reference section for those interested in further study.
The other section that makes Battaglia the good book that it is, is the unit entitled "Clinical Index". Here Battaglia takes each system in the body, and after a brief description of the physiology of the particular system, walks through what could go wrong with the system, and how aromatherapy could help, before taking the reader through each therapeutic effect (e.g. analgesic, antispasmodic et al) of the relevant oils. Again there is a reference section for those interested in further study.
The rise in the use of aromatherapy has led Battaglia to include two chapters on common spa treatments, and how aromatherapy could assist the meeting the needs of the client.
Now for the downside. There are some who consider aromatherapy a science, and one where all therapeutic claims must be backed up with 'hard' science such as controlled studies etc. And there are also those who consider aromatherapy more an art, where even if many of the claimed therapeutic effects are not backed up by too many peer-reviewed scientific studies, their own experiences with the oils leads them to conclude that some of the claims for the essential oils are true. The simple fact is that most of us started of learning the art of aromatherapy from the starter books of Louise Tucker (An Introductory Guide to Aromatherapy - ITEC) or Francesca Gould (Aromatherapy for Holistic Therapists - VTCT). After these we waded into deeper waters of practice, and CPE, and all of us to one extent or other, have found where we are comfortable on the art/science spectrum. For those on the science side of the equation, Battaglia is another of those "novels" which quote a book, which quotes another book, which further quotes another book for a proposition which in the end, has no basis. For example, Battaglia makes extensive reference to Gabriel Mojay's Aromatherapy For Healing The Spirit as basis for the energetic properties of the oils. Mojay however, has little or no published research to back up the claim or propositions set out in that book.
Be that as it may, as a book to flesh out the practice of aromatherapy today, as a reference and a sourcebook for aromatherapy as currently practiced in the mainstream, Battaglia's book stands as a great tome to have on the shelf, to be dipped into and enjoyed.