The History Of Essential Oils
The history of essential oils is engraved in our culture, this is something quite spectacular with the term essential oils becoming a household topic across the modern world today.
Although you may see them mentioned more in popular culture now than you have in the past, they have been around much longer than the people who now market and advertise them to the wider audience.
They have almost been around as long as the earliest recordings of human beings. Even showing up in the bible with many writings about Frankincense and Myrrh, which were given to baby Jesus at his birth.
There are so many properties in essential oils that can help us in many ways, but these findings did not happen over night.
One spectacular thing we can take from practices that have lasted a millennia is that they must have a good reason to still be around.
Before we delve into what makes essential oils so great, why don’t we take a look at their origins.
Who discovered them? What civilizations first used them? How are essential oils used?
Today we are delving into how they were discovered, used and explored in the past for different cultures, so get comfy because this takes us back more than 5000 years!
If you are still wondering what an essential oils are, they are oils extracted from natural sources.
The essential oils have a lot of beneficial nutrients and other magnificent properties.
Check out this short video for visual explanation.
Check Out These Videos On The History Of Essential Oils
So Who Was The First To Use Essential Oils?
Once again, the Ancient Egyptians were pioneering essential oils a long time ago. But it is not possible to know who was the very first to use essential oils.
During Ancient Egypt and its triumphs, the River Nile is arguably the most talked about river in history and was the life source of Ancient Egypt.
Aiding them in their technological advancements and rise to success as a nation.
The Egyptians utilized agriculture, literature, government and things that cannot be explained by modern day scientists and theorists.
So it’s no surprise that they also innovated herbal medicine.
One ancient healer named Ebers Papyrus began practices that date back to 1500BC but they are believed to have been copied from scriptures dating back even further.
While we cannot credit Papyrus as a founder he certainly was a well-known practitioner.
The scrolls he had written included methods/ recipes for preservation using essential oils.
We have all heard of fictional stories about ancient mummies, but they did exist to a degree!
Egyptians used aromatherapy to preserve bodies of people who died. These included frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon and juniper!
Aromatherapy is strongly linked to the development of aromas used in medicine- cultures meant this also crossed over with ideas of supernatural things such as religious beliefs and magic.
Egyptians used to burn incense and would watch the smoke rise- this was symbolic for them and they thought the smoke was rising to heaven, this lead on to other practices and testing.
In the 3rd Dynasty of Egypt circa 2650-2575 BC, Egyptians began to explore embalming and mummification because they wanted immortality.
This was spearheaded by those in power such as royalty.
Arabian traders went all over the eastern continents to bring back anything they believed could help.
Perfumery Links To Aromatherapy And Essential Oils?
Egyptians also used fragrances as we do today, simply because they offered a pleasant smell.
Women would adorn scented headgear that would melt and release aromas in the extreme heat the country is oft conditioned to.
This was a luxury practice and Egyptians certainly loved the finer things in life.
Scented baths and essential oils would also be used to protect their skin from sun damage and the environment around them.
Jump to circa 1539-657 BC and the Egyptians had begun to refine the use of essential oils and aromatherapy even further.
From medicine, cosmetic, incense and then perfumes.
Egyptian perfumes were a commodity sought after from almost every country- for those wealthy enough to afford them that is.
Up until a few centuries before Jesus was born, they had the largest industry of this sort.
Julius Caesar went on to conquer Egypt, which lead to the fall of Cleopatra’s reign over Egypt.
Caesar apparently dished out Egyptian bottles of perfume to his supporters to show his dominance over Egypt as their new ruler.
Before The Egyptians?
Certain herbs and woods had been used for thousands of years before the Egyptians used them.
The idea was to ward off evil spirits or cleanse a curse that had made somebody sick or possessed.
Some of the people may have been suffering from mental disorders but back then nobody would have known this.
India, Ayurveda And Essential Oils
Egyptians are renowned pioneers of many modern practices; using aromatherapy for food, spiritual healing, physical healing and cosmetic reasons.
Many experts believe that essential oils were being used at the same time across India and China.
Depending on which sources we believe it could even be noted that Indian culture and Ayurveda began using essential oils earlier than Egypt.
A combination of enriched cultures across the world have all played a part in what we have today.
The Indian health care Ayurveda system is a practice that uses natural healing by ways of spiritual, philosophical and practical methods.
Ayurvedic medicine is over 5000 years old and is still popular in India today and many other countries have adopted it also.
Aromatic massages use essential oils and literature from 2000 BC shows that Indian healers used oils to help treat sick people.
They used sandalwood, coriander, myrrh, ginger and cinnamon.
What Does Ayurveda Mean?
The word Ayurvedic comes from Ancient Indian Sanskrit- Ayur means life and Veda means knowledge.
An Indian book called the Vedas goes into detail on over 700 herbs and aromas. Delving into how each one can be used for religious and therapeutic beliefs.
Example- Basil is a sacred plant in India, it is thought to unlock the heart and mind- giving love and devotion.
When used therapeutically it is also believed to have the power of strengthening ones religious beliefs in Hinduism.
The Chinese have also been appreciated as pioneers in preservation- we simply have to refer to ‘’Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine’’.
That was written in 2697 BC, making it the oldest recorded medical book in Ancient China.
The book contains solid information on 300 different plants- offering an explanation on each one’s properties and how they could be used as medicine.
Does such an in-depth knowledge dating so far back mean they were more advanced in this field than the Egyptians? We will never know!
The Greeks And Essential Oils
Assyrians, Hebrews and Babylonians all played their part in the diverse knowledge that helped produce aromatherapy into what it is today.
The Egyptians fall from grace happened around 300BC and Europe became the main player in developing the use of essential oils.
It was from this time moving forward that science and biology became more understood and that aromatherapy had the potential to treat many ailments.
Although things were a long way off being perfected they were certainly practiced a lot in these times.
Asclepius The Greek
Was a practitioner of aromatherapy around 1200bc, he combined the use of herbs to aid him in surgeries that no other could seem to match.
When he died he became a deity of healing in Greek mythology.
Throughout Greece many temples were named after him and were known as Asclepeoin temples; places where people would go to seek healing.
Hippocrates was a pioneer in other senses than somebody who simply used essential oils for distinct reasons.
He was a physician who challenged the ideals that illness was caused by natural forces.
Thinking that natural causes were the problems and began to promote the in depth study and observation of patients through trials and studies.
Hippocrates believed the body worked as one single organ and some of his practices are still used today.
Along with famous Hippocratic Oath that doctors pledge upon graduation.
Quite a way to go down in history considering he lived over 2000 years ago!
So How Did He Use Essential Oils In His Medicine?
He would treat people with a combination of physiotherapy, infusion baths and massages or get people to eat herbs, extracts and roots.
They have properties he believed could cure or treat certain ailments.
The number of herbs included in his studies has been documented to over 200 different. This is where the inspiration of holistic therapy came from, the man himself.
Botanists And Pharmacology
Alexander invaded Egypt in 300 BC and the Greeks flourished even more.
It was Theophrastus of Athens, a student of Aristotle, who investigated how aromas and scents from plants could affect how humans feel emotionally.
Theophrastus Of Athens
Theophrastus wrote many books including "The History of Plants" he is also respected as the founder of botany.
The History of Plants was used in reference for the next few centuries and was very influential.
Essential Oils And Aromatherapy AD
Dioscorides was a Greek physician who worked in the military between 40-90AD.
He was well respected in Nero’s army for his willingness to travel with Roman armies to surrounding countries to such places as Greece, Italy, Spain and Germany.
He recorded all of his findings including the habitat that each plant would thrive and grow in.
This helped people understand how plants should be stored and prepared for best usage.
Dioscorides wrote a total of 5 books in a series called Herbarius.
Accounting the healing properties of every herb he had discovered and studied across different climates and terrains.
Herbarius taught many practitioners of botany how to do things properly and took out a lot of guess work for countries still new to this kind of medicinal treatment.
Herbarius was utilised across Europe for 1500 years and included work on an extensive list of herbs.
Including ginger, lavender, olive oil, rhubarb, sesame and thyme to name but a few- all of which are still used today for their medicinal benefits!
The number exceeded 1000 different botanical medicine ideas- including descriptive analysis and drawings of 600 plants or different scents.
This work lead on to him being donned as The Father of Pharmacology- quite an impressive feat, wouldn’t you agree?
Essential Oils In War And Combat
In 129- 199 AD, a Greek practitioner of medicine knows as Claudius Galen was responsible for wonderful things in the Roman Empire.
He began studying medicine at 17 years old and by 28 was working with the Romans to heal the wounds of gladiators.
Through these extreme circumstances he got a lot experience in treating different types of injury and went on to become the personal doctor or Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Right at the time when Rome was at the peak of its powers.
Rome was an academic leader in studying and sciences- Galen capitalised on this opportunity also and wrote 400 books and 83 of them still exist today.
Including the famous book De Simplicibus, Describing the plant, its habitat and what it can be used for.
His remedies including herbs and essential oils covered a wide degree of common ailments.
He also was the first to combine ingredients to create cosmetic cream!
After the death of Galen, the Roman empire began to decline and shortly after was met with the historical dark ages.
In these times things became barbaric and the use of aromatherapy shifted center to other parts of the world.
Essential Oils Through The Dark Ages
The Middle Ages were a time shrouded in darkness compared to some other eras.
Little history was recorded and the Catholic Church scoffed at the idea of using essential oils for healing purposes.
Essential oils did stay around but only for their pleasurable scent, not for their healing benefits.
Some historical evidence shows that some monks and spiritual people of the time still practiced aromatherapy in secret.
This was to save getting in trouble or being persecuted.
Back then it would have been considered sacrilege and people lived in fear of being accused of Devil worshipping and witchcraft.
Avicenna- Father of Modern Physics
By the 17th Century, essential oils were not a cult thing nor where they misunderstood.
Aromatherapy was hugely appreciated and practiced all over the world without quarrel.
By 1800, the majority of pharmaceutical practices included essential oils as prescriptive medication with England, France and Germany being the main users.
At the same time, large areas in Southern France would be dedicated to growing flowers.
Supplying the raw materials to be used for French fragrances and perfumes.
When tuberculosis was common, people even believed that those working among oils and herbs were being protected by the flora around them.
Whether this part is true or not, we will let you decide on that for yourself!
The first lab tests on essential oils were recorded around 1887. The tests were designed to look at whether plants could be used as anti-bacterial agents.
In 1910, A chemist known as Rene-Maurice Gattefosse had an accident when experimenting. He burned his hands and arms in an explosion which later lead to gangrene from the gasses.
He bathed his arms in lavender oil and claimed that this one session reversed and halted the damage of the gas gangrene.
The next day he reported a lot of sweating and very fast healing that began within 24 hours.
Gattefosse then looked into other natural healing methods that may be able to help him and others. He applied this knowledge into helping soldiers fighting in WW1.
Valnet was a doctor from Paris and also worked in the military alongside Gattefosse.
They delved into using essential oils for antiseptic treatment, keeping wounds clean.
In the Indo-china war from 1948 to 1959 they successfully used the oils and it has been credited to saving the lives and limbs of many injured soldiers and personnel.
Valnet continued working with essential oils in medicine and published the famous book ‘The Practise of Aromatherapy’.
The book influenced a lot of his peers in their studies, personal interest and other discoveries.
The book went on to receive global recognition.
How Are Essential Oils Used In The Modern World Today?
Essential oils are distributed all over the world now and play a role in many different industries.
Whether that be for medicine, or everyday lifestyles, aromatherapy and essential oils are incredibly versatile.
Their use in everyday health related scenarios is becoming more and more popular and for good reason.
Being able to look after your own health in a natural way is so important.
Natural Plant based healthcare is a priority for so many people. They are safe, effective and affordable.
We only recommend the use of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade or (CPTG) Essential Oils.
dōTERRA Essential Oils are the brand I personally use and highly recommend as these are of course CPTG Essential Oils 100% Pure and free from any fillers or harsh chemicals.
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