The healing effects of plant extracts were prized for their medicinal value across the ancient world, but generally dismissed as quaint remedies by the medical establishment of the postmodern world.
In a backlash over synthetic drugs, the therapeutic use of botanical oils is enjoying a renaissance along with public acceptance of alternative medicine. Called aromatherapy, the term applies to the natural aromatic oils of flowers and fruits, which penetrate the skin when added to a bath, massaged into the skin or diffused in a room. Experts say plant essences have emotional, spiritual and physical effects.
One adherent, Chana Schoenberg, a nurse and lecturer who made aliyah, teaches a unique brand of aromatherapy that emphasizes Judaic tradition of using fragrance in ritual and for therapeutic use. Borrowing a biblical phrase, Schoenberg, 52, of Jerusalem, also lectures women on creating their own "city of refuge," mentioned in the Torah as a sanctuary.
"I just took the same idea that women especially need to create a fragrant 'city of refuge' for herself, a sacred space," Schoenberg said in an e-mail interview. "It can be simple inhalation coupled with visualization, a massage or a bath with beautiful oils, music, candlelight, an affordable and yet necessary indulgence."
Schoenberg will share her insights on Nov. 7, 7 p.m. at Laguna Beach's Chabad Jewish Center.
"I thought it was an idea that would really work with Laguna," said Perel Goorevitch, Chabad's education director. "This is a very artsy, spiritual place, into the senses."
The modern term aromatherapist was coined in 1937 by a French chemist, Rene Gattefosse, who plunged a burned hand into an infusion of lavender. He healed without scarring. "He found out what the old women of the village knew," said John Steele, an aromatic consultant in Sherman Oaks and relative of Schoenberg.
For more information about Tal Fine Essential Oils, visit www.taloils.com .