Key Benefits of Spanish Alchemy
I’ve been asked hundreds of times: what is all this alchemy about? And I never find a short answer that’s able to express all its genuine magic . It’s very difficult to explain what is alchemy in just one sentence unless you stick to the definition itself. Alchemy is not just some sort of old fashioned chemistry but a whole philosophy that beholds the world from a holistic perspective bringing true magic to our lives. So I have decided to take some time and share with you the beautiful stories about our Spanish alchemy and help you understand the magic behind it.
Paracelsus** (1493-1541) stated that the true purpose of Alchemy was not for the vulgar purpose of gold making, but rather for the production of medicines. Thus, alchemy has always had a closer approach to wellbeing and holistic medicine rather than the romantic story about getting common metals into a noble one – gold.
Let’s have a closer look on its definition:
“The medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.”
“A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.“
To better understand this magic rather than picturing some sort of Harry Potter adventure I’d like to share with you a hint of its history and origins.
The word aromatherapy is quite recent. The word first appeared in print in 1937 in a French book on the subject: Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales by René-Maurice Gattefossé, The art of using essential oil and other botanical compositions was called Alchemy.
The Spanish School of Aromatherapy (aka Alchemy) is the oldest. Alchemy – including Aromatherapy and Perfumery- were introduced to Europe in Middles Ages through Spain. The mixing of Christian, Jewish and Arab culture was the origin of an important cultural phenomenon reaching its splendour between the 10th and 11th centuries.
While people in Europe were losing their hygienic habits that had been established by the Romans, Spain was enjoying more than 100 SPAs and hammans (Turkish baths) all over the country. Cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Toledo, Valencia and Barcelona still preserve these temples of health and wellbeing.
The firsts to master and introduce Alchemy in Europe were Spaniards. In our school, as Aristotle once said, “Virtue is the happy medium between two extremes”, thus although we are more likely to apply essential oils topically (external use), we also uses them orally paying close attention to what we ingest. You do NOT take an essential oil lightly , because it is an extremely concentrated solution and a mistake can have serious consequences (no matter if the plant it is sourced from is edible) The reason why our school of aromatherapy is alchemical is because it has a holistic approach and follows alchemical processes in its practice. (on the next blog post I’ll explain in more detail)
The French school of aromatherapy has its roots in the XX century medicine (René-Maurice Gattefossé), its approach is closely tied to medicinal therapies and they tend to significantly apply essential oils orally. This school is mainly based on clinical applications.
The English school is even more recent; established in the 70’s, inherited from the French school and introduced as an alternative therapy. Its pioneer, Robert Tisserand, only recommends the external use (massage or inhalation) of essential oils. This school is closely bound to a more “energetic medicine” and to manual therapies. The English school was broadly spread to the USA and Australia.