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Three Aromatherapy Practices from Around the World

When you imagine aromatherapy, do you picture yourself receiving a massage with essential oils while candles burn in the background? Or do you imagine yourself in bed while a diffuser releases your favorite nighttime blend into the air?

The truth is that aromatherapy can take a lot of different forms around the world. Aromatherapy has been practiced for thousands of years in cultures all around the world. It began with some of the oldest civilizations and eventually spread to nearly all other countries.

In many cases, the new country adopting the practice made changes or found its own way to use these aromatic. This has led to a number of different cultures that approach aromatherapy differently and for different reasons, some of which are highlighted below.

aromatherapy practices Japan

Originating during the 14th or 15th century, Kodo is an artistic ceremony that revolves around the use of incense. The word Kodo translates to “the way of fragrance” or “the way of incense.” The ceremony was inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony and originally practiced only by upper-class citizens before it the practice expanded to include the majority of the population. 1

The ceremony can be viewed as an aromatherapy session that involves the use of high-quality incense. The incense is placed onto a mica plate and then sat on top of a fuel source like charcoal. An individual then places small aromatic wood chips on top of the mica plate to absorb some of the smoke. Additional aromatic elements can be used as well, such as spices or shells. Modern Kodo sessions may also incorporate natural essential oils.

Unlike many other cultures in the world, the Japanese did not use Kodo aromatherapy for its health benefits. Rather, it was enjoyed as a social gathering and form of art.

Additionally, there are often games played during a Kodo ceremony known as Kumiko. Hundreds of different Kumiko games have been created over the centuries. These games are often thought-provoking and involve elements of trivia, poetry, or travel. One very common Kumiko was a competition where participants attempted to guess all of the incense and aromatic elements that were being used during the ceremony.

Kodo was very popular throughout Japan for several centuries before fading away during the 19th century. However, over the past century, a renewed interest in the art has emerged as the public gains a new understanding of aromatherapy and how scents interact with the minds and body.

India aromatherapy practices

Ayurveda is a holistic form of medical care originating from India that focuses on balancing the various systems of the body. Not only is it still popular today, but it is also believed to be one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. 2

The practice includes a number of different elements, such as herbal medicines, massage, exercise, yoga, meditation, dieting, and aromatherapy. All of these elements can be combined to remedy a large number of medical conditions with surprising efficiency.

When focusing specifically on aromatherapy, the practice is often referred to as Vedic aromatherapy. Practitioners of this system believe that the body's health is influenced by three elements and those elements result in illness when they are not in balance. The three different elements are referred to as Vata, pitta, and Kapha, and Vedic aromatherapy is believed to be one of the possible practices that can balance these elements.

Though not all of the Ayurvedic medicine is supported by science and clinical studies, there have been several benefits linked to some of its practices. Vedic aromatherapy is one of the practices with science-backed benefits that have been tested time and again.

Whether or not the rest of Ayurveda is just as effective remains to be proven, but there is no denying its popularity, as more than 90 percent of Indians practice some form of it. 3

aromatherapy practices United States

The watsu treatment is a type of body massage that is performed in warm water. It was developed in California during the 1980s by Harold Dull and involves a combination of many common elements used across massage techniques.

Many of the techniques are derived from the Japanese form of bodywork known as Zen Shiatsu. When combined with the effects of hydrotherapy floating, it produces unique benefits that have helped patients around the world.

Over the years, aromatherapy has made its way into this practice. Most modern watsu sessions now include a number of burning candles or essential oils. The oils are not worked into the body as with other aromatherapy massages, but rather vaporized using diffusers. This allows them to help reduce stress and anxiety while promoting relaxation.

Watsu has been around a very short time compared to practices like Vedic aromatherapy or Kodo, but it has still helped many individuals. Studies have shown that it helps reduce pain, aches, and emotional stress. These benefits increase significantly when essential oils are added to the process. 4


These three aromatherapy practices from around the world are only the tip of the iceberg. There are a number of different massage techniques, social gatherings, and medical practices that incorporate aromatics and essential oils for various reasons. However, that doesn't mean you need to visit a massage parlor or a hospital to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy. Simply putting your favorite oils in a diffuser at home or taking them with you on the go in a personal diffuser is more than enough.

Photo Credits: Ikunl/, DRTravelPhotoandVideo/, Lucky-Photographer/

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