The History of Essential Oils
Essential or aromatic oils have been used by many cultures around the world for thousands of years. One of the most unique aspects about the history of essential oils is that they seemed to have been developed independently by different cultures as they saw their unique value. From being used in medicinal treatments to the overall improvement of wellbeing, essential oils have had a wide number of uses and popularity. Visit Gifts Ready To Go to find premium essential oil gift ideas and gift sets.
The overall history of the creation of essential oils actually goes back to pre-historic times as cave paintings discovered in the Dordogne region of France that date back nearly 20,000 years shows the use of medicinal plants and the oils they created for everyday use.
In recorded history, the Egyptians who were the first to build a large scale civilized culture used essential oils as far back as 4500BC. They were renowned for their knowledge of ointments, aromatic oils and cosmetology which stretched into making herbal preparations. These preparations were used to make perfumes, medicines and incense that were used on a daily basis. Plus, they developed many resins, spices, aromatic vinegars and other concoctions based on the oils from the plants that grew along the Nile River. Interestingly enough, despite the wealth of resources around them, the Egyptians never actually distilled their own oils and actually imported them from other places, even those of cypress and cedar.
In China, the first use of essential oils was recorded during the reign of Huang Ti, the Yellow Emperor around 2697 to 2597BC. The book that Huang Ti wrote on internal medicine contains several different aromatic oils and is still used as a guideline by many who practice in Eastern medicine today. India shortly followed suite with the development of aromatic oils roughly 3,000 years ago. The Vedic literature of the time included over 700 different substances that were used for all types of essential oils and medicines. In fact, they were once used to actually stem the tide of bubonic plague that ravaged the countryside.
Back on the European continent, the Greeks were the first to start using essential oils since their prehistoric ancestors. The first recorded use of such oils was as gifts or trade from the Egyptians where they were instantly recognized for their many different uses. Hypocrites, the famous Greek physician included over 300 plants where such oils were derived and additional knowledge was gained from India after being partially invaded by Alexander the Great. The combined knowledge helped to spread the use of the aromatic oils as they were highly promoted. Hypocrites himself wrote that having a perfumed bath and a scented massage with such oils was the path towards good health and wellbeing.
Another Greek who helped promote such oils was Galen who developed a wide knowledge of plants and their uses. His life during the Roman Empire was heralded thanks to his reputation for apparently never having an injured gladiator die under his care. He even treated the Emperor himself, Marcus Aurelius and wrote a considerable amount of information about plant medicines.
The Romans were well known to use perfumes and aromatic oils on their bodies, clothing and even their bedding. Oils were used for baths and massages and many Roman physicians used the books of Hypocrites and Galen in basing their treatments. This knowledge was kept when the Roman Empire fell and the text translated to a number of different languages.
The Persians and in particular Ali-Ibn Sana who lived from 980 to 1037 AD not only wrote a number of books on the properties of plants, but he was the first to actually distill them into the oils that we see today. In fact, his methods are still being used to create aromatic oils that are distilled and used for a wide variety of purposes.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, it took the Crusades where Knights of different countries entered the Holy Land and came back with many different herbal medicines as well as essential oils and perfumes that became quite popular in Europe. By the 14th century, these oils were used to combat the bubonic plague just like earlier in India and enjoyed a considerable amount of success when they were used.
By 1653, Nicholas Culpeper has written “The Complete Herbal” which remains one of the most valuable resources for essential oils today. His book actually describes the many conditions that the oils can treat and the remedies that can be created.
Hundreds of years later, a French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse actually coined the term “Aromatherapy” while researching the various oils. His book about aromatherapy published in 1928 actually details cases of how such oils have helped to heal people over the years. The book became a resource that helped influence many of the medical practices in France. However, Gattefosse actually had firsthand knowledge of the healing powers that the oils. One night, he accidentally burned his hand badly and quickly immersed it into lavender oil. The skin healed without any infection or scarring and that discovery led to conducting further research where lavender oil was used in many French hospitals. In fact, during the outbreak of Spanish influenza which claimed many lives in France, there were no reported deaths of any personnel who worked in hospitals where the lavender oil was present.
The rich history of essential oils continues to this day where they are used as aromatherapy gifts, massage oils and even for medicinal purposes. Over the years, they have helped people obtain a better sense of wellbeing and have even helped prevent the spread of diseases.
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