Essence of Goat

by Noel Cunnington - Date: 2006-11-28 - Word Count: 679 Share This!

An odd title to be sure but perfect for my next article.

René-Maurice Gattefossé, born 1881, died 1950. Was a chemist and perfumer working in the Provence region of France and lived principally in Lyon. A lovely city East of Paris where there is glorious food, wide streets and shop upon shop of magical temptations. Another reason Lyon is poignant is that it is home to the Lumiere Institute dedicated to the Lumiere brothers, the inventors of cinema. As a film-maker I'm sure you can appreciate how holy this city is to me, but to have had Mr Gattefossé live and work there is truly a magical coincidence.

So who is Mr Gattefossé. In the late 1800's in France there was a lot of research and development into essential oils, mainly with regard to the perfume industry. In 1910, there was a laboratory accident where Mr Gattefossé burnt his hands very seriously. After extinguishing the flames on a nearby lawn, he returned to the lab and plunged his arm into a vat of Lavendula Angustafolia (True Lavender). By his account, the pain was immediately relieved and over the next week, accellerated healing occurred until, two weeks later the wound was healed completely with no visible scarring at all.

This is what we now call a 'definitive experience' with the oils. Being a man of science, Mr Gattefossé sought to understand what had happened and discovered that high grade essential oils had medicinal properties that lesser grade or crude essential oils did not. He was the first to be ceased by the vision of what he called 'Aromatherapy' and dedicated the rest of his life to furthering our understanding of just what therapeutic grade essential oils can do.

I doubt he would realise that some day I would write this article and pass on his website address

Where does the Goat come in?

Gattefossé's Aromatherapy

Anyone involved in Aromatherapy owes a deep debt of gratitude to René-Maurice Gattefossé. Not only the author of the term 'Aromatherapy' but also the architect dedicated to building his vision; a vision that will continue as we can see, long after he has 'left the buidling'.

This book was published in 1937 but reaches much further back in time. Mr Gattefossé had access to scientists who had been working for many years with essential oils. And in turn, these scientists would have had contact with the generation of scientists before them. Ultimately this book spans a period of potentially 150 years and thus gives us an excellent overview of where the current understanding of essential oils has come from.

Incidentally, Mr Gattefossé and his family are responsible for developing a technique for the production of a stable and duplicatable perfume product. His technique had a major influence on the French perfume industry as well as shaping its reputation for high quality.

"Gattefossé's Aromatherapy" is a compilation of his own research and experiments and the many Doctors and scientists working independently at the time. Essential Oil protocols used or developed during that time are presented along with case histories supporting said practices. There is an detailed index and extensive bibliography at the back of the book.

Mr Gattefossé writes that it was traditional to tether a goat near a person with consumption or Pulmunary tuberculosis, the belief being that the strong smell of the goat chased away pathogens. Looking at this custom as a scientist, he and his co-workers developed methacresyl phenylacetate which in fact is the chemical a Goat exudes, eg Essence of Goat. He tested this 'essence' probably in several hospitals within the Lyon area and discovered the urban myth to be true and that the substance was indeed a powerful antiseptic for the lungs.

This book is devoted to those with a scientific bent in an historical context. The reader who has to know where and why about things. At times a bit of a struggle for me with my Year 12 Chemistry being taxed, but none-the-less a valuable couple of hours spent digesting what can only be described as the first book on Aromatherapy - one I will refer to repeatedly.

With oil, Noel

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