Aromatherapy and Turkey's legacy with essential oils

Published 17.11.2016 23:35
Updated 17.11.2016 23:37
Aromatherapy and Turkey's legacy with essential oils

While seemingly a newer trend, Turkey actually has a long-standing history with essential oils and aromatherapy; the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being

Aromatherapy is not a new trend or practice by any stretch and in fact can be traced back 6,000 years ago in these parts. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were all known to have used aromatic oils. The name aromatherapy in the modern era first came about in 1937 when French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse named the practice of using plant oils for treatment purposes. But in Turkey, the practice of using plants and their special properties for treating ailments has survived countless generations.

In theory, aromatherapy is the use of "essential oils" derived from plants whose aromas can be inhaled, its oil absorbed through the skin and used in a bath or even ingested. The inhaled aroma from these "essential" oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function and when the oil is absorbed through the skin to promote whole-body healing. Some of the health benefits include pain relief, mood enhancement, increased cognitive function and speeding up the healing process. There are a wide number of essential oils available, each with its own healing properties.

Turkey is also a global producer for a wide range of essential oils including rose, lavender, citrus, laurel leaf, origanum, myrtle, fennel, anise, sage, rosemary, Melissa and juniper oils.

Where to find essential oils


Due to the Turks' long history of utilizing nature's bounty in home remedies, Turkey has a specific type of shop referred to as "Aktar," in other words "herbalist" or the seller of medicinal herbs, spices and essential oils. Nearly every neighborhood in Turkey has one and they make for an excellent stop to learn all about which plant helps which ailment and from which region they are harvested in.

Spice Bazaar

The "mecca" as it were of spices and essential oils however, is undoubtedly Istanbul's Mısır Çarşısı, aka the Spice Bazaar in Eminönü. One can easily while away the day smelling and testing the vast array of essential oils on offer. Many have wall-sized displays of jar after jar of tempting treatment options as well as a medley of special mixes with tantalizing names. There are two shops in particular in the Spice Bazaar, which have long been aficionados in essential oils, namely Ucuzcular, which was founded in 1886, is one of the oldest spice shops in the bazaar and Arifoğlu, which has branched into nearly 20 locations in Turkey.

Homemade Aromaterapi

Homemade Aromaterapi is an attractive shop in the equally beautiful neighborhood of Kuzguncuk that also offers online sales of their range of aromatic and essential oils. Founded in 2012 by Aslı Bilgin, who also offers monthly four-hour workshops on aromatherapy, this shop's mission is to share the priceless effects that these aromatic and essential oils have on our psyches and bodies. They have a wide range of aromatherapy products, including their popular chakra oils. On Saturday, Nov. 19, Homemade Aromaterapi will host a stand at the Istanbul Designer's Pop Up Day, a one-day shopping event in which artisans and designers of Turkish global brands will be displaying their products held in conjunction with the Istanbul Design Biennale.

Art de Huile Aromaceuticals

Hülya Kayhan is an expert aromatherapist and pharmacist who schools in the practice of aromatherapy not only through her own line Art du Huile Aromaceuticals but also in workshops held all over the country. Based in Zekeriyaköy, Art de Huile is a very special line of aromatic and essential oils.

Single-handedly spreading the practice throughout Turkey, this Saturday, Nov. 19, Hülya will be teaching an aromatherapy workshop at the Denizli Pharmacists Chamber and then on the weekend on Dec. 10-11, she will be in Çeşme at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa for a two-day advanced level workshop.

The following are the most widely used essential oils:

Rose: Relieves depression, insomnia and nerve problems and is used for facial skin care and also happens to be one of the most valued essential oils in the world.

Lavender: Relieves neck and head aches and is good for treating burns, cuts, eczema and insect bites and putting a few drops on your pillow helps to go to sleep at night.

Eucalyptus: Good for insect bites and as a repellent and for infections, fever, upset stomach, and to help loosen coughs.

Lemon: Revitalizing and uplifting, it improves lymph drainage and cleanses the body, eases anxiety and migraines and is good for focusing and mental clarity.

Oregano: With its powerful anti-microbial properties, it can kill fungus and a cold fast

Clove: Providing anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and antioxidant protection, it is an excellent remedy for toothaches.

Tea Tree: Anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, it has a powerful antiseptic action and can be used for treating common ailments such as fungal infections and stimulating the immune system also an excellent aid for cleansing.

Frankincense: A useful oil for respiratory infections, it helps slow down breathing and has a calming effect on emotions.

Peppermint: Used for thousands of years as a digestive aid, this oil is good for treating indigestion and for stimulating the mind and improving clarity and alertness.

Apricot: Known for nourishing skin and therefore can be used as a face cream.

St. John's Wort: The bright red oil from this herb consumed as a tea helps ease depression and is useful in treating skin ailments and scars.

Almond: A natural sunscreen and an excellent moisturizer, especially for eczema and psoriasis, it provides muscle pain relief and can be to coat and therefore promote healthy hair.

Myrrh: A natural anti-septic it can prevent or reduce infections and nourishes the skin and reduces stretch marks.

Rosemary: Due to its ability to naturally thicken hair, it is great added to shampoos but also its aroma improves brain function and memory so great to use when working or studying.

Grapefruit: Weakens anxiety and builds strength against mental disorders and negative thoughts.

Bergamot: An anti-depressant that strengthens optimism and hope.

Cypress: Improves circulation, reduces varicose veins, lifts confidence and can help heal broken bones.

Patchouli: An antidepressant, antiseptic and aphrodisiac, this oil is also an excellent insect repellent.

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