The history of essential oils goes back to many, many moons ago and actually starts with the history of plants used for therapeutic purposes. As such, history tells us that people started using plants and herbal remedies to treat and heal conditions since 18,000 before Common Era.
We don’t know exactly when essential oils became an integral part of everyday health and healing, but what we do know is that these healing agents were used from as early as 4500 B.C.E. by the Egyptians, and in various ways.
Some mixtures of aromatic oils were only used as incense or perfume whereas others as treatment and medicine. The incense that the Egyptians used and loved the most was Kyphi. Blending 16 ingredients, this powerful mixture had both religious and medicinal purposes.
At the same time, we know that Kyphi wasn’t a specific recipe in that the incense bearing this name wasn’t always made from the same ingredients. Kyphi was more likely a type of incense rather than specific incense. While some ingredients were always added to every recipe, the majority of them varied one ingredients’ list to another.
The list of ingredients of a Kyphi recipe could have read anything from cinnamon and mint to mastic, sweet flag, camel grass, seseli, pine kernels, henna, mimosa, honey, juniper berries, and cyperus.
From Egypt on to China
There is no other more important reminder of the role of aromatics in Chinese medicine than The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, considered a landmark in the world of Chinese medicine and the medical field worldwide. This medical classic is acknowledged by medical practitioners all over the world.
According to the writing, Chinese people used aromatic oils since very early, starting with 2697 B.C.E. for medicinal purposes. People who practice eastern medicine today often use this writing as a guideline and a source of information on essential oils and administering essential oils as treatment.
Essential oils in India
Ayurvedic medicine, both traditional and modern, has made use of essential oils ever since this practice was first established more than 3,000 years ago in India.
Ayurveda looks at the human body in its entirety – body, mind and spirit and believes that the body cannot be healed unless there is balance within the tree levels of existence. The role of essential oils in this sense is to rebalance, promote and encourage the healing of the entire human system, subsequently at all levels.
Traditional Ayurveda lists more than 700 healing substances among which sandalwood and cinnamon as incredibly potent for healing.
Here come the Greeks
Another civilization that has recorded the use of essential oils for therapeutic and medical purposes since a long time is ancient Greece. Much of their knowledge was adopted from the Egyptians and the Greeks even developed their own version of a Kyphi mixture.
The Greeks had great knowledge of the healing effects of more than 300 plants and used plant essences both to prevent and to treat health. Perfumed baths were often recommended by physicians for good health and massages with oil-infused mixtures were very common.