The growing interest in essential oils may make you wonder if they are just passing fad or the “newest thing.” Actually, essential oils have existed as long as the plants, trees, and roots they come from. Let’s take a brief look at their history.
The earliest use of oils, and the botanicals they are derived from, came from simply laying the plant of choice on the body. Eventually fatty oils were mixed with plant materials as a means of extracting the aromatic oils. Today the highest quality essential oils are produced by companies that choose state-of-the-art distillation techniques.
Ancient Egypt was advanced in their understanding of the human body. Scrolls from 1,500 BC record a treatment for asthma that involved heating herbs for the sufferer to inhale. Forms of cedar and juniper essential oils, as well as cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh resins, were used in Egypt’s culture. Today, of course, we enjoy using the essential oils that are derived from those resins.
Greece and Rome eventually ruled over Egypt. Historical records, including the New Testament scriptures, mention the use of aromatic oils and ointments in both of these progressive cultures.
The Romans used their aromatic botanicals in their public bathhouses. Here’s an interesting bit of history; when they weren’t able to bathe, Romans would create a mixture of aromatic botanicals and olive oil to scrape their bodies as a means of cleansing.
Rome’s influence and power declined. But the use of essential oils did not. Writings from the Middle Ages reflect growing recognition of the benefits of oils. The art of oil distillation also became more effective.
Here are a few more historical highlights.
The German mystic Saint Hildegard lived in the 1100s and studied the healing properties of plants, herbs, and oils. Her findings are recorded in her nine volume Physica. During the 1500s essential oils such as cedarwood, rose, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, and myrrh were being used throughout Europe for pharmaceutical purposes.
The development of chemical research in the 1800s led to oils being increasingly used in perfumes and in flavorings for food and beverages.
In 1910 the French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse used Lavender oil to treat a burn he received. His studies led to essential oils being used to treat soldiers’ wounds. During the second half of the twentieth century, the French Doctors Jean Valnet and Daniel Pénoël were instrumental in furthering the use of essential oils for supporting wellness.
Obviously, the story of essential oils is much more extensive than space allows us to cover. Just remember this, oils are not the latest fad. Rather, as you enjoy your essential oils, you are using products based on a long and rich history.
Disclaimer: The mention of the historical use of essential oils is for informational enjoyment only and is not based on current scientific research. Nor is this information intended to imply results from using essential oils.