Aromatherapy is not a modern phenomenon. Actually, it dates back to before recorded history. There is a long and colorful history leading from those early days to our modern world, where you can buy essential oils at the supermarket.
Leave It To The Chinese
Who were the first to use aromatherapy? If you guessed it was the Chinese, you’re right. They were the first to do lots of things, including burning special herbs for the well-being or harmony of an individual. They identified and classified over 300 herbs that offered health benefits when burned as incense.
The Egyptians And Their Love Of Aromas
For Europe and the western world, the Egyptians can be thought of as the founders of aromatherapy. They used incense, bath oils and massage ointments. They even embalmed their dead with essential oils! They had a special ceremony where participants wore a conical hat made of oils which would melt and release their fragrance. Ancient Egyptians were the pioneers of aroma treatments, and their practices spread to Europe.
Perfumes And Powders
A thousand years ago, Arabia was the world capital of perfume development. Many of their perfumes used essential oils and fragrances that were intended for healing. These practices were brought back to Europe with returning soldiers from the Crusades. They also brought with them distillation techniques and devices for spreading the room with fragrances.
Aromatherapy Goes Underground
During the Dark Ages, aromatherapy went underground. The Catholic Church banned all kinds of all-natural remedies because they believed all illness to be the punishment of God. Only prayer and some bleeding could cure you. This ban lasted for centuries. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras, herbal remedies were largely ignored in favor of more abstract scientific methods. Aside from the development of perfumes and some medical studies in the 19th century, this rejection of aromatherapy continued until quite recently.
Modern Aromatherapy Was Discovered By Accident
Of course, aromatherapy practices date back to the early days of humankind, but the modern form was discovered by accident. In the 1920’s, French chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse burned his hand during an experiment, and soaked it in lavender because he didn’t have anything else handy. He was surprised at how quickly the wound healed, and began to research other herbs. He was the person who coined the term “aromatherapy.”
Now, aromatherapy has gained wide acceptance as a viable method to treat all kinds of ailments. From its early history, through the rejections of the Church and science, it has made its way to our modern world, where anyone can enjoy its benefits.