In modern times, essential oils are used in aromatherapy to aid people with their physical and emotional health. In the past, they have been used by many people all over the world and in different cultures to do just that. The history of essential oils is a long one. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese were using plants with aromatic qualities for healing. Although these plant substances were being used in the medical practices of the day, they had not yet been distilled into essential oils.
The Egyptians, and perhaps also the Persians and the people of India, were the first to make distillation machines. Oil of cedarwood distilled with such machines was used along with myrrh, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg oils to embalm the dead.
The Egyptians were concerned more with the sense of smell than with any of the other senses. They believed that it was the most important and dominant sense. They adopted the essential oils they made to their medicine, cosmetics, and fragrances.
The use of essential oils was taken up by the Greeks next. Hippocrates did an ancient form of aromatherapy. A Greek named Megalleon invented a perfume called megaleion. This substance was used in aromatherapy and as an essential oil as an anti-inflammatory and to heal wounds. A Roman, Discorides, wrote on the uses of 500 different plant substances. Distillations were also made of such substances. However, these distillations didn’t produce essential oils. Instead, they made floral-smelling waters.
Avicenna was a Persian man who refined the process by inventing a distillation machine with a coiled cooling pipe. This allowed for more effective cooling. Eventually, the focus shifted towards more emphasis on true essential oils and their uses.
Paracelcus was a doctor of the fifteenth century who began using the term “essence.” His emphasis was using essential oils for medicine. During this time, many new essential oils were being produced. Among them were juniper, rosemary, rose, and sage. During the sixteenth century, people would go to their apothecary to get essential oils for many different uses. Around this time, the advent of new essential oils flourished. In the next few centuries, essential oils changed little except in their use in perfumes.
The major chemical ingredients of essential oils were identified. Scientists became more interested in the subject of essential oils. In the twentieth century, this became a problem for those interested in the use of true essential oils.
Much of twentieth century science has been consumed with creating synthetic versions of essential oils. However, an early twentieth century Frenchman named Gattefosse became increasingly involved with the study of essential oils and their medicinal values. He was the first to use the term “aromatherapy”. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils were not well known in English-speaking countries. Robert B. Tisserand changed all that. He wrote the first English book on the subject, and many other books and articles.
As the years go by, people are becoming more and more interested in natural ways of doing things. They want to find ways to soothe their minds and comfort their bodies without synthetic drugs. Essential oils give them a way to do it.