Understanding the evolution and context of plant medicine history helps us understand 'where we are' in our place in history. Each era of scientists and discovery brings deeper insights and understanding to the intricate, invisible web and interactions of humans inside and out and our interface with the natural world. One can gain a lot of insights from knowing and understanding our history and the invisible structures that determine our current modern realities of the time.

Terpenes & Aromatherapy - Some Key Scientific Discoveries:

1825 English Scientist Michael Faraday was the first scientist to discover the benzene ring.

1833 German chemist Eilhard Mitscherlich was the scientist who actually named it benzene. He had distilled this compound from gum benzoin. Benzene gained widespread importance in the paint industry as it could easily remove paint stains from the surfaces of metals.

1860 English chemist C. G. Williams first isolated isoprene by pyrolyzing rubber. Became the foundation of organic chemistry and the beginning of the movement to synthesis natural molecules.

1865 German chemist Friedrich Kekule discovers benzene molecule structure.

1866 Kekule coins the term ‘terpene’.

1877 British chemist William Augustus Tildendistinguished between terpene groups of turpentine and orange oil hydrocarbons obtained from essential oil. He discovered that isoprene could be made from turpentine. He was unable to turn this discovery into a way to make commercially viable synthetic rubber.

1887 German chemist Otto Wallach determined the structures of several terpenes and discovered that all of them were composed of two or more five-carbon units of isoprene [2-methyl-1,3-butadiene, CH2=C(CH3)-CH=CH2].

1922 English chemist and physicist Francis William Aston won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery, by means of his mass spectrograph, of isotopes in many non-radioactive elements and for his enunciation of the whole number rule.

1910 Gattefossé discovered the incredible healing properties of Lavender accidentally when a small explosion occurred in his laboratory. One of Gattefossé’s hands was badly burned. He quickly immersed it in the nearest tray of liquid. The liquid was essential oil of lavender and to his astonishment Gattefossé observed that his hand healed with no infection or scarring.

1937 - Gattefossé and a colleague conducted further research on the healing properties of lavender and introduced it to many of the hospitals in France. During the outbreak of Spanish influenza there were no reported deaths of hospital personnel, which was credited to the use of lavender. From this work, he published the first aromatherapy book.

After leaving the army with many honors, Dr Jean Valnet’s spent the next fifty years in private practice and expounded his medical theories into various publications, books and medical journals, many being updated until 1992. Dr. Valnet devoted his time to the study of the anti-infectious properties of essential oils and to their types of action.

1961 Dr Jean Valnet became a corresponding member of the "International Center of Biologic Research" in Geneva and produced many lectures and essays on the properties of essential oils.

1964 Dr. Valnet published the second book ever written on the subject of the medical use of essential oils, Aromatherapy, treatment of the illnesses by the essences of plants (1st edition 1964 11th and last edition 1989). He continued writing and published

Health by fruits, vegetables and cereals (1st edition 1967 - 9th and last edition 1985)

Doctor Nature (1st edition 1971 - 2nd and last edition 1980) and Herbal medicine, treatment of the illnesses by the plants (1st edition 1972 - 6th and last 1992).

1973 together with Doctor Maurice GIRAULT, Dr. Valnet created the term of antibio-aromatogramme to characterize a particular antibiogram (the result of a laboratory testing for the sensitivity of an isolated bacterial strain to different antibiotics), which instead of being treated with the classic antibiotics, was treated with aromatic gases.

1978, Dr. Paul Belaiche-Daninos, a French doctor, writer, laureate of the French Academy and a student of Dr. Valnet, published a study on the clinical use of essential oils in the treatment of infectious and degenerative diseases.

Jean-Claude Lapraz, Christian Duraffourd, and Dominique Baudoux were students and colleagues of Valnet and Belaiche. They contributed enormously to the understanding of the medical activity of essential oils as well.

Ground breaking Medical Aromatherapy Publications by Paul Belaiche-Daninos include:

The great treaty of Phytotherapy and Aromatherapy in 10 volumes, 1979, Maloine publisher Paris.

Publication of Number 1 of the Journal Phytotherapy, 1981

Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 1987

Publication of the "Invisible Disease", 1994

How to deal with anxiety and fatigue without taking drugs.Plants and trace elements to overcome spasmophilia, 1997, Robert Laffont

How to treat spasmophilia without taking drugs?, 2001, Marabout

Dr Paul Belaiche continued Dr. Valnet’s work contributing significantly to the methodology and study of aromatherapy. 

1996 Dr Paul Belaiche published the ground breaking book Traite de Phytotherapie et d’ aromatherapie, Vol. 1 L’ Aromatogramme.

Dr. Belaiche created a standardized microbial test employed in phytomedicine to determine the most effective combination of essential oils to treat a specific infection in a patient. The Aromatogram is a scientific method using sample cultures of a patients relevant fluids that are subjected to a a number of essential oils. It is then determined which essences have the strongest germicidal or inhibitory effect on the pathogenic microbes present in the patient. Certain generalizations can be made as to the effectiveness of essential oil against different pathogens from the thousands of aromatograms collected.

By the 1980’s four clear paths of the study and use of essential oils could be observed:

Medical and wholistic healing

Fragrance and perfumery (1982, official birth of Aromachology, The Fragrance Research Fund)

Food Science, natural flavors & artificial flavors

Esoteric and folks use


1990 L'aromathérapie Exactement by Daniel Penoel & Pierre Franchomme is written and becomes THE text book and foundation of current medical aromatherapy.

Up until this point in history, all of the above scientific ground work on essential oils and medical aromatherapy was published in German and French only.

The next significant contributors to the current field of essential oil science and medical aromatherapy are Dr. Kurt Schaubelt and Robert Tisserand. They continue to contribute to the current renaissance of Medical Aromatherapy in the U.S. and Britain. Multilevel marketing essential oil companies have sprouted up and taken this body of knowledge back to common folks and in many cases are responsible for making exaggerated claims that will not serve science or the efficacy of the oils in the long run.

German Phytochemist, Dr. Kurt Schaubelt has translated and continued the work of Dr. Daniel Penoel and Pierre Franchomme famous L’ Aromatherapie Exactement.

In America,Dr. Kurt Schaubelt has written several books and brought together the best world leaders and researchers through his International Aromatherapy Scientific Conferences and the publishing of those proceedings. He continues to research and contribute to the field of medical aromatherapy and specifically terpenes.

Robert Tisserand also began translating the work of Pierre Franchomme and translated his work into the first English book, The Art of Aromatherapy. The Tisserand Institute is located in Britain.