A Brief History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can be traced back as far as 2000BC when essential oils were first recorded in history books. Essential oils have been used through the ages by many races in many different countries.
Essential oils were extracted by the Ancient Egyptians using infusion and were originally used for embalming their dead and were later used in cosmetics production.
The ancient Greeks acquired knowledge of essential oils from the Egyptians and Herodotus was the first to use distillation to produce essential oils in 425BC. The Greeks passed their knowledge on to the Romans who used essential oils for aromatic massages and for bathing. Hippocrates, a Greek physician, wrote about medicinal plants and used aromatic fumigations to fight the plague. He believed that the path to good health was to have an aromatic bath and massage with essential oils on a daily basis.
The Bible records the use of aromatic oils for the treatment of illness; Frankincense was one of the gifts brought to the birth of Jesus by the wise men and His body was anointed with aromatic oils during the burial process.
An Arabic physician called Avicenna, wrote many books describing the effects that various plants had on the body. He invented a primitive form of distillation, using a "still", which was used to produced essential oils and floral waters (hydrolats). This method is the basis of the distillation methods that are still used to produce essential oils and hydrolats today.
In England, the earliest written record of the use of essential oils is from the 13th century, when many books were published, including those containing recipes for producing essential oils. The majority of people who survived the Plague were those using essential oils with antiseptic properties.
In 1652, the herbalist Nicholas Culpepper, wrote a book that contained the medicinal properties of hundreds of plants and plant oils.
In the 1920's a French chemist, Gattefosse, burnt his arm badly and discovered that by placing his arm in a vat of lavender essential oil, his arm healed quickly and no scarring occurred. This discovery led to a great deal of research and the publication of his first book about Aromatherapy in 1928. Gattefosse is considered to be the founder of modern Aromatherapy practice.
Dr Jean Valent was inspired by Gattefosse, and used plant essences to treat soldier's battle wounds when he ran out of medical supplies. The power of the essential oils was beginning to be realised.
In the 1950's Marguerite Maury, who was one of Gattefosse's students introduced the use of combining essential oils with massage and brought the Aromatherapy massage techniques to Great Britain. She devoted her whole life to teaching and training others to use this holistic approach.
Click the link to return to the Clinical Aromatherapy page.