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Aromatherapy is an ancient healing practice involving volatile plant oils, commonly known as essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. Apothecary drawers have been filled with essential oils for decades. However, it was only in the 20th century when people started using the term aromatherapy.
It started with the Chinese, the first cultures to incorporate the practice into their traditions. They use plant oils and burn incense to create balance within the body and harmony with nature. In addition, the Chinese used infused oils for massages, proving they knew about aromatherapy before the Egyptians.
The use of Aromatherapy dates as far back as three hundred years Before Christ and has been traced to the Egyptians as initiators. It was later discovered to have healing properties.
The history of aromatherapy dates back to approximately 3000 years before Christ when the Egyptians of the ancient times used to burn incense crafted from aromatic herbs and woods in honor of their deities. By the 12th Dynasty (circa 1800 BC), Egyptians started using aromatics for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
The Egyptians adopted the practice and created an old distiller prototype extracting crude cedarwood oil. The oils they extract from the plant are then sold in markets in their country. It has been said that Persia and India might have invented the distillation process.
As time passed, the Egyptians started to extract oils from different plants. In addition to cedarwood, they use clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and myrrh. They also used These oils in the embalming of their dead. When an Egyptian tomb was opened in the early 20th century, remains and traces of these plants were seen in some parts of the body. Archaeologists were even able to smell the scent.
The Egyptians also used scents and oils in some rituals, especially spiritual ones. Some also used oils as medicines, while the women used perfumes and cosmetics. The word perfume is thought to have come from the Latin word fumum, which means smoke.
There are claims that men also use fragrances like women, but they have an interesting method. They will place a solid perfume cone on their heads, gradually melting until the perfume and scent cover their whole bodies. Egyptians brought the knowledge of aromatherapy to Greece. However, the Greeks were the ones who developed aromatherapy for medical uses.
The Greeks also used perfumes, but everything was credited to the Gods of their mythology. Still, using plant oils as scent took on a life of its own, and soon Megallus made a perfume from myrrh, a fatty oil. His smell, called the Megaleion, not only has aromatic benefits but can also heal wounds and has an anti-inflammatory property toward the skin.
It was also the Greeks that established the medicinal purposes of plants. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, practiced using plants for their aromatic and therapeutic benefits.
Armed with the knowledge they had gotten from the civilizations of the Egyptians and the Greeks, Roman Dioscorides wrote a book called De Materia Medica, which essays the different properties of as many as 500 plants.
In the 11th century, a process called a coiled cooling pipe was invented, which impacted the distillation of essential oils. Avicenna, a Persian, created the prototype, which allowed steam and vapor from the plant to cool down so that it could extract it better and faster than other distilling machines.
According to some resources, when it came to essential plant oils’ benefits, Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine, wrote about the benefits of aromatic baths. Hippocrates even advocated using massage using olive oil that absorbed the aroma from flower petals and herbs.
The presence of aromatherapy was also observed in England, specifically during the second visitation of the Black Death (1603 AD), when the only people who were said to give in to the plague were the workers involved in aromatics.
Since then, several writings have been published in America and Europe, extensively highlighting the virtues of essential oils for healing and then supported by several scientific studies which give way to a complete understanding of the concept of aromatherapy.
In the twentieth century, in France, the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse coined the term “aromatherapy” after successfully treating a burn to his hand with undiluted lavender oil. Another incident supported this discovery when a French doctor named Jean Valnet employed essential oils to treat psychiatric and medical conditions. The results of which were published in 1964.
Later, in France, Madame Marguerite Maury, who had studied the work of Dr. Valnet, introduced the first holistic approach to aromatherapy. The introduction then led to re-introducing the original concept and application or practice of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy is now considered one of the most acceptable ways to battle the detrimental effects of stress, restoring the beauty, harmony, and tranquility of nature into the lives of everyone. It is a potent way of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind, and spirit to promote ultimate well-being.