History & Origin
Aromatherapy is not a recent discovery or development. Cave paintings up to 18000 BC old were discovered in France, depicted the burning of aromatic plants for medicinal use. But it is believed that aromatherapy originated in Egypt.
It may be possible that the ancient Chinese civilizations were using some form of aromatics at the same time as the Egyptians.The use of aromatics in China was linked to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure.
Also, Chinese people used aromatic herbs and burned aromatic woods and incense to show respect to God. Through the centuries aromatherapy has been mostly practiced by civilizations like Egypt, China, India, Rome, and Greece.
Egyptians began to practice aromatherapy using the method of infusion to extract the oils from aromatic plants which were used for their medicinal and cosmetic values as well as embalming i.e. the preservation of dead bodies. The recent excavations of Pharaohs’ Tombs have unearthed the pleasant aromas which have been buried centuries ago. Oils were used to tackle mental illnesses such as mania and depression. These oils were also utilized in hygiene and communal baths, as well as massage.
Then, Greeks inherited the art of aromatherapy from the Egyptians. Many of their practices were based on Egyptian techniques. A Greek physician, Pedacius Dioscorides, wrote a book about herbal medicines 1200 years ago. some of his remedies are still in use today in aromatherapy.
The Romans, who adopted much of their medical knowledge from the Greeks, mastered the art of aromatics and became to be known as 'the bathing capital of the world'.The Romans went on to use and improve aromatherapy. As trade routes opened up to East India and Arabia, the Romans began importing new varieties of plants and oils.
One of the main aspect of traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurveda, practiced for more than 3000 years, incorporates aromatherapy, as Ayurveda is also based on medicinal value of plants.
Western Europe also made use of medicinal plants as this was demonstrated during the Plague epidemic. Aromatic herbs were burned in the streets to act as a disinfectant and to cover the odor of death.
Also, the power of medicinal plants could further be seen during the tuberculosis epidemic in France which was devastating. A population of people remained strangely unaffected, those who worked in the flower growing district. It is now believed that this was likely due to the relative resistance offered by their exposure to medicinal plants.
Essential oils are known to have disinfectant effects, even being bactericidal and virocidal in some cases.
In the early 19th century, the use of medicinal plants began to fall out of favor. Microorganisms were discovered and synthetic chemicals grew in popularity. It wasn't until the late 19th century that scientists in Europe and Great Britain began researching the effects of essential oils on bacteria in humans.
A French Chemist , Rene Maurice Gattefosse, began his research into the healing powers of essential oils after burning his hand in his laboratory and immersing in it in lavender oil and being impressed by how quickly the burn healed.He went on to set up a business producing oils for use in fragrances and cosmetics. A 20th century French biochemist, Margaret Maury,developed a unique method of applying these oils to the skin with massage.She is credited with expanding the techniques of modern massage using essential oils.