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Ancient History of Essential Oil as Medicine

Updated on December 23, 2015

Aromatherapy History

Ancient Art of Aromatherapy

When ancient people did not have access to synthetic types of medications, they relied on what nature has to offer them. Hence, they turned into using botanical materials in curing common ailments or providing relief for various conditions. They only had access to organic plants grown in their area and relied on their medicinal value to provide healing. This was after they have discovered the natural healing properties that are present in the botanical plants that provided an effective relief without suffering from any harmful side effects.

The concept of herbs and essential oils as alternative medicine is therefore contradictory, especially given that herbal medicine were the only source of treatment for people way before modern medicine was invented. In fact, some of the medications that are currently produced commercially utilize herbs and other botanical sources as their main ingredient.

Essential Oils as Ancient Medicine

Essential oils are known to integrate all aspects of one's health to provide holistic healing action, such as the physical body, mind, and spirit. But this is not entirely a novel concept since you can trace a long history of essential oil usage as medicine throughout history. From the ancient Egyptians, to the time of Judeo-Christian and Muslim, up until today it has been used for a wide range of applications.

One reason for that is in terms of the versatility of essential oils, unlike most medications today that are specifically intended to treat a certain condition. This is due to a rich combination of therapeutic properties contained in the essential oil.

Judeo-Christian and Muslim Times

There are several evidences of the use of essential oils during this time period in ancient history. Although majority of its use of essential oils were intended for medicinal purposes, there are also several that utilized it for rituals, ceremonies, and other spiritual celebrations. Going back to disease treatment, essential oils such as frankincense, myrrh, lotus, and sandalwood were widely used.

In addition, they have also utilized clove and lemon oil for their antiseptic qualities, which proved more effective than modern antiseptics invented in modern times.

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Ancient Egypt and Rome

The use of essential oils in aromatherapy expanded when the Egyptians forged their medical knowledge of the botanical materials found in their region. They sought those plants with the highest medicinal value in an effort to use them in their daily life. If it were any testament to the reliance of ancient Egyptians to essential oils and other medicinal herbs, archaeologists discovered liters of essential oil buried along with Tutankhamen's tomb when it was excavated in 1922.

Ancient Roman doctor Galen also utilized the healing power of essential oils during ancient Roman times when Marcus Aurelius was still the emperor. He served as a doctor for those Gladiators who were wounded. He utilized essential oils and herbs to make cold cream that will be used to treat the wounds of these Gladiators. It will eventually serve as foundation for modern use of cold creams to treat wounds and other forms of skin inflammation. After some time, Roman doctors during the ancient times also discovered the spiritual aspect of healing such that they combined it along with the use of essential oils for treatment.

Ancient Arab

The ancient Arabs played a different role in the expansion of essential oils and its use in aromatherapy. It was them who showed how people can gain access to it such that many could benefit from using essential oils as medicine. They were the first to innovate the distillation method of extracting the therapeutic properties of the essential oil from the plant sources to make it easier to acquire the healing qualities of the botanical plant.

They begun by examining the chemical properties of the plant and where the volatile oils are concentrated. This will enable them to isolate those oils and make it easier to extract them from the plant source.

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Ancient European Times

It was around the 12th century when Europeans discovered the use of essential oils and medicinal herbs for natural healing. Doctors in Mesopotamia and Babylonia have been recorded to use medicinal plants and oils during this early in history. This was learned through clay writings that detailed a Babylonian King's request for common herbs that contain medicinal values for use in aromatherapy. Some of those that were listed in the said account were garlic, thyme, myrrh, onions, and mustard.

The Crusade also helped to spread the use of aromatherapy throughout the rest of Europe, as well as uncovering the knowledge on how these oils are produced.

Ancient China and Asia

The use of essential oils in major parts of Asia can also be traced over a long period of history. During 3000 BC, the book The Yellow Emperor's Book of Internal Medicine was released in China that outlines how one can utilize the power of herbs and aromatic oils for treatment of common diseases. This book offers the most vast amount of knowledge on the ancient use of medicinal plants and oils prior to the invention of modern medicine. Eventually, this knowledge stemmed to Japan and Tibet wherein more natural forms of healing were introduced to combine with the healing properties of essential oils.

In India, the concept of using essential oils for disease treatment were incorporated with spiritual and mental aspect for a more effective healing. As more studies are conducted in an effort to understand what is it about essential oils that make it such a powerful healing tool, it has also uncovered the presence of various therapeutic properties that make healing possible.

Modern Advancements in Aromatherapy Application

Since the ancient discovery of essential oils as powerful healing agent without the risks involved with using synthetic medications, more people embrace this method to provide as a natural home remedy. Therefore, expert aromatherapists and health experts are examining newer methods to make it easier for individuals to acquire those therapeutic properties to serve as both complementary and main source of medicinal benefits.

And with its ability to alter psychological and mental state, essential oils are used in aromatherapy as a holistic approach that will ensure more lasting results.


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