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Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils in Hospitals

1916 • 2008

The Gattefossé Foundation intends to raise awareness of aromatherapy in a hospital environment. It is continuing René-Maurice’s efforts (seen as the father of modern Western aromatherapy), with the aim of establishing the use of essential oils as an indispensable complementary therapy to pharmacology and conventional medicine.


René-Maurice Gattefossé was demobilized in 1916 and drew on all his remaining strength to take on another battle: highlighting the therapeutic properties of essential oils and encouraging their wider use.

He was keen for his work to be useful straight away and developed an antiseptic and anti-infective product from essential oils, calling it “Salvol”. The product was tested by doctors in military hospitals and then during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

René-Maurice also looked to demonstrate the benefits of using terpene-free essences, which, in his view, were soluble in water and miscible with fatty substances. His efforts were supported by the doctors he had converted, such as Émile Forgues, an enthusiastic supporter and user of essential oils. Forgues published passionate articles in La Parfumerie Moderne where he championed Salvol, a “generic term” used to describe all “stable” compositions made from terpene-free essential oils.

René-Maurice Gattefossé in his laboratory, 1908.

René-Maurice spent several years spreading the word and sending out samples, then others took on the job of bringing his “aromatic repellant” to market. In 1918, he wrote: “All essence manufacturers aware of our work in this area can create similar products, as we do not hold a monopoly”. Unfortunately, no one really listened…


In 2008, Gattefossé created Gattefossé Foundation. It was chaired by René-Maurice Gattefossé’s granddaughter, Françoise-Sophie Moyrand, and aimed to highlight the practice of aromatherapy as a complementary approach to traditional allopathic medicine in hospital environments and across all medical fields. Priority areas were infectology, extended oncology treatment, geriatrics, palliative care, psychiatry and pain management.

The Gattefossé Foundation was keen to use this in improving quality of life and patient care throughout the treatment process.

In 2014, the company launched a prize for “Clinical Applications of Essential Oils.”

The prize offered 10,000 Euros annually to a medical team and French hospital for their scientific and clinical approach to the use of essential oils. Teams needed to demonstrate benefits to the patient and his or her environment over a period of at least three years. In 2017, the Gattefossé Foundation launched a call for bids and decided to offer two grants worth 5,000 Euros per year in addition to the prize money, to help structure and formalize projects. It also supported theses by pharmacy students on the subject of clinical aromatherapy applications and fostered experience-pooling among health professionals.

By reaching out to hospital settings and training their staff, the foundation’s work follows in the footsteps of René-Maurice, who encouraged doctors to use Salvol and essential oils generally to fight infection.

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Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils in Hospitals