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Posted in Essential Oil Basics by Rocky Mountain Oils

The History of Essential Oils

When thinking of medicine throughout the ages, you probably conjure up the image of our ancestors crushing herbs with a mortar and pestle to create salves or tonics that could be used to help improve health and wellness. This is due to the effects that some plant matter has on our bodies and minds, and the use of those plants was the precursor of using essential oils in our everyday lives today. 

Though some people may believe that the use of essential oils is a more recent development in natural living, the cultivation of plants for their unique properties and pleasant aromas can be traced back to thousands of years ago. 

~4,500 BC — Essential Oils in Ancient Egypt

Some of the earliest precursors of essential oils have been dated back to the ancient Egyptians, as early as 4,500 BC. This ancient culture had a high regard for self-care and hygiene, and they cultivated a variety of plants for everyday cosmetic application, such as body oils and perfumes. Plants used for these purposes include thyme, lavender, and aloe.  

Aromatic oils were also used throughout the culture’s mummification process, where embalmers utilized materials such as cedar oil and myrrh to treat the body and offer protection to the soul of the deceased. 

~ 3,000-2,000 BC — Traditional Chinese and Indian Medicine

Many ancient Chinese and Indian civilizations began exploring the medicinal use of herbs and plants throughout 3,000 and 2,000 BC. It is during this time that we see the first recorded use of aromatic oils in traditional Chinese and Indian (Ayurveda) medicine, both of which focus on holistic approaches for medical treatment and emotional balance.

The plants often used in these healing practices include cinnamon, ginger, and sandalwood. 

~ 500 BC — The Use of Essential Oils in Greece

Aromatherapy was a very prevalent practice in ancient Greece as well. In fact, the famous Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460 - c. 370 BC) was quoted saying, “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day”. This helps to illustrate just how important plants and their essences were in everyday ancient Greek life. 

Because of this enthusiasm for aromatherapy, the ancient Greeks documented a wide range of plants and their unique aromatic and medicinal properties. Popular plants used during this time include saffron, marjoram, cumin, and peppermint.

1937 - The Term ‘Aromatherapy’ is First Introduced

When thinking of the history of essential oils, many aromatherapists may immediately refer to the French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé, whose own experience with treating burns with pure undiluted Lavender oil helped spark inspiration for his book Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy: The First Book on Aromatherapy. With this book, Gattefossé was the first to coin the term ‘aromatherapie’, and he is considered to have started the modern use of essential oils in everyday life and health. 

Essential Oils Today

Essential oils have gained a great deal of popularity in the past few decades as a general interest in alternative medicine and natural living continues to rise. From household cleaning products to creating soothing aromas in healthcare centers, people are using essential oils in all sorts of settings as a more natural option in their day-to-day lives.

With this growing enthusiasm for essential oils and their continued presence in our lives, it’s important to understand the different ways that we can use essential oils , as well as the purity of the oil to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Remember to purchase your essential oils from a reliable source, such as RMO, to ensure that stringent product quality guidelines are met for maximum quality assurance. Only use your essential oils as they are recommended, and consult with a trusted aromatherapist or physician for any questions or concerns you may have about the use of your product.