Aromatherapy isn’t a new age phenomenon. People have been using aromatic plants, flowers, herbs and oils for longer than recorded history. Let’s back up a bit, and see just how old the art and science of aromatic therapy really is.
The earliest evidence of humans using plants medically dates back to about 20,000 years ago. Paleolithic peoples in Lascaux, France created cave paintings depicting herbal, aromatic medicines.
5,000 years ago Ancient Egyptians were using aromatic substances like myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and juniper for incense, perfume, and medicine. Explorers in the 1920s even found a jar of what they think was ancient Egyptian perfume in the tomb of Tutankhamen. It still smelled faintly sweet when they opened it, and it turned out to contain frankincense and spikenard.
Scented oils especially had a great use in Egyptian mummification. Oils would be used in the embalming process to preserve the dead bodies and ward off the stench of decay. It’s safe to say the Egyptians knew how to preserve things without using synthetic chemicals!
Around the same time in China, Huangdi, the legendary Yellow Emperor wrote the famous book “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine”. It contains the properties and medical uses for over 300 different plants and is still referenced by practitioners today.
The Chinese were the first to expand the use of oils into other areas of alternative medicine, such as acupressure. They also burned aromatherapy oils when performing massage therapy practices that are still popular today.