At this time of year when we humbly remember the sacrifices of many brave people both past and present, to protect our freedom, it is worth noting that one of the most important figures in modern Aromatherapy and essential oil research was a decorated soldier. Dr. Jean Valnet 1920 – 1995
He saw combat duty during World War II (1940-45) as an officer in the Croix de Guerre 1939-1945 earning many honors including Cross of the Fighter, Cross Volunteer Fighter, Cross of Resistance Fighter Volunteer and “Medal of the Free French”
He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1945, as well as Diplomas in Forensic Medicine, Psychiatry, Microbiology and Hygiene.
He continued to work as a surgeon in many evacuation hospitals and other surgical units post war. His long time fascination and study with natural remedies became a positive reality during this time as he had great results with essential oils and aromatic solutions in dressing the wounds of soldiers, particularly when antibiotics and other drugs were in short supply or not available.
Dr. Valnet retired from the military in 1959 and continued his medical practice in Paris, France. He chaired the first Symposium of Medical Aromatherapy in Paris in 1960, and his first reference work, titled “Aromatherapy : The Treatment of Ailments by Plant Essences” was published. He wrote “Doctor Nature” in 1971, and “Phyto-therapy : the Treatment of Ailments by Plants” in 1972.
These works were based on Dr. Valnet’s clinical observations, and encouraged him to continue research in the study of anti-infectious properties of essential oils. He coined the term “aromatogram”, a method using essential oils to test antimicrobial susceptibility. While Valnet witnessed the life saving need for antibiotics, particularly on the battle field, he also foresaw the dangers of overuse which is now a major challenge facing modern medicine. He wrote many papers and became an outspoken advocate on the subject.
Dr. Valnet founded the first association for the research and study of phyto‐aromatherapy in 1971, and from 1976 until his death in 1995, he organized a a major annual international phyto‐aromatherapy conference which was widely attended by medical doctors, research scientists, and academics. In 1981, Dr. Valnet also founded the College of Phyto-aromatherapy and field‐based medicine.
Dr. Valnet was also one of the first to record the specific properties, indications, and dosages of essential oils useful in medical practice. His work is credited with the foundation of two great trends, which are the clinical or scientific approach which is regularly used by doctors in France, and more popular trend of Aromatherapy geared towards wellness and a healthy lifestyle for the masses. Because of Dr. Valnet’s extensive research, he is considered by many as the “Father of Modern‐day Aromatherapy”.
For a childhood fascination and observation of healing to not only survive the brutal, front line traumatic reality of war; but to continue such valuable healing contributions to society is beyond remarkable and could not be overstated. The forward thinking ideas of Dr. Valnet were well ahead of his time.
Two of the most memorable and poignant quotes he made are…
“Normal preventative medicine, which consists of giving healthy people drugs and injections of products whose future effects are unpredictable, is an aberration. Bringing about change by non-toxic means is the only efficacious course, among which aromatic plants and their essences have been, are, and will remain in the front rank.”
“There is nothing less scientific than to deny something because it cannot be explained.”
Rest in peace to you and all others who made such selfless sacrifice.
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