Panel One: The six panels of the collage represent our vision of an Asian style aromatherapy. Aromatherapy starts with the plant. In this case we take the artistic liberty to use bamboo even though it does not yield an essential oil. Nonetheless bamboo, like every other plant produces an array of secondary metabolites which support its quest for survival and proliferation.
Panel Two: Distillation separates the lipophilic secondary metabolites, commonly the essential oils, from the plant.
Panel Three: Researching the chemical composition of essential oils has been, for the last century, the most important way to rationalize the physiological properties of essential oils. In the pharmacological model the specific molecular structure of a component is seen as the original reason for its therapeutic or pharmacological properties.
Panel Four: In the current scientific developments, especially in cellular and molecular biology attention is given to the interaction of the plant secondary metabolites with so-called molecular targets inside the cell. As plant secondary metabolites often interact not with one, but with multiple targets, the methods of traditional pharmacological model often fail to give useful explanations of the overall observed healing effects of plant extracts.
Panel Five: As the effects on the cellular plane coalesce into noticeable healing effects on organs new methods are required for an accurate and meaningful description of the underlying processes.
Panel Six: As the effect of the plant extracts on the whole person manifests the approach of Systems Biology seems to be most suitable for a meaningful assessment how processes on the molecular plane translate into healing for the whole body/person. This whole approach is based on the premise of emerging properties. As the components of biological systems organize to ever higher levels of integration the possibilities for complex interactions rise exponentially and effects manifest that are not predictable from the knowledge of the components alone. In other words knowing the properties of the components of an essential oil does not necessarily predict all its healing qualities for the whole being. The classic example being Lavender. Its components are all well known, yet from knowing the components it is not obvious that Lavender is a most useful agent to treat minor burns. This quality arises as a consequence of the complex interaction of all its components and not as a result of the pharmacology of one or more of its components.