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A bit of a history lesson June 2021

A bit of a history lesson June 2021

Hi Everyone,

So this month I wanted to share with you some history of where the therapies that we give at the Hospice come from.  Over the years when I say I am a complementary therapist, I am met with a puzzled look followed by ‘so what is that?’ question. For many of you this may come as a shock, but there are lots of people that don’t realise that complementary therapy is a term referring to many of the wonderful, indulgent, powerful and caring therapies such as Massage, Reflexology and Aromatherapy.

Massage, reflexology and aromatherapy are three of many therapies that are holistic, in that they treat the individual on all levels of being – mind – body – spirit, given alongside conventional medicine, thus being complementary, working with each other.

Complementary therapy history is ancient and rich with evidence of Hippocrates, The father of medicine circa 460-377 BC, treating individuals by using baths and massage with scented infusions.  Since before recorded history, the UK has been a destination for invaders, migrants, refugees, scholars and travelers. Part of their legacy is a diversity of medical and health practices.  Until the arrival of the Romans in AD43, medical practices were limited to a basic use of plant materials, prayers and incantations. The Romans brought with them a vast collection of herbal treatments and introduced the concept of the hospital as a centralized treatment center. In Britain, hydrotherapy can be traced back to Roman baths and spas, brought together with practices from the Far East and China introduced by traders using the Silk Road.

The French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, in the 20th Century, first used the term Aromatherapy, after accidentally discovering the medicinal use of essential oils. This was after accidentally burning his arm and to relieve the sudden pain, placed it in the nearest liquid he could find…this being Lavender oil. Aromatherapy is a relatively modern term, with evidence of this very ancient practice found in Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Roman records, using some form of aromatics in health and well-being.

Reflexology also has its roots in ancient history, where images in The Physicians Tomb at Saqqara, Egypt, are painted upon the wall and point to foot therapy. This therapy has been developed through the centuries with the modern day therapy a product of Eunice D Ingham, a professional physical therapist, who recognized through extensive treatment of patients that the reflexes on the feet where an exact mirror image of the organs in the body and mapped these into reflex points on the feet.

The first known recordings of the practice of massage therapy can be found in the Cong-Fu of the Toa-Tse, in China, dating back to 3000 BC.  India, Egypt, Greece and Rome all practiced this form of therapeutic healing and there is evidence that athletes as far back as 776BC used massage before commencing the games.

Although massage therapy has a long history, I believe we also hold an instinctive use for massage within us, as a way of self-care when we look at our actions and reactions to pain and discomfort.  How many of us when experiencing a headache massage our temples and forehead, or when we have discomfort in our stomach, do we massage the area in a circular motion. Unknowingly easing our digestive system and aiding in the movement within our intestines and digestive tract.

Natural reactions that over centuries of research and combining with other practices, form the modern field of complementary therapy, used in a myriad of ways to help relieve stress, pain and discomfort, aid in natural healing and boost well-being.


Whilst many of these therapies originate from ancient practices,  the modern field of medicine and research are now discovering even more uses of its therapies, from prevention to management of some symptoms, illness and disease. Illustrating that complementary therapy is an ever changing and developing source of support and aid in well-being for all of us.

Complementary therapies also includes such therapies as; Reiki, Bowen Technique, Indian Head Massage, Crystal Therapy, Colour Therapy, Shiatsu and Feldenkrais.


And thus ends our history lesson.

 Hope you have found it interesting.

Much love