Aromatherapy dates back to ancient times
Aromatherapy may be popular, but it’s not new.
Historians credit the ancient Egyptians with first using aromatherapy. The fragrance was used in rituals, healing, massage, cosmetics and embalming in ancient Egypt.
When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1922, archaeologists found a pot of ointment that was still fragrant. And when the 3000-year-old mummy was unwrapped, bystanders could smell Myrrh and Cedarwood on the wrappings.
Aromatherapy use was not limited to Egypt, though. The Chinese used fragrance for spiritual ceremonies and in childbirth. Arab physicians used sandalwood, Camphor and Rosewater to disinfect their bodies and clothes, and the Greek physician Hippocrates reportedly used essential oils to ward off infection.
Frankincense resin, extracted from trees in Arabia, was worth more than gold in the ancient world because of its spiritual properties. People believed that when it was burned, frankincense gave the human spirit a glimpse of the divine energy of the gods.
In the early 80s, German scientists investigated the so-called mindbending effects of frankincense, which is still burned in catholic churches. Altar boys were reportedly becoming emotionally addicted to the smell. Scientists found that frankincense vapours contain chemicals that stimulate the subconscious.
After the crusades, Knights brought Arabian perfumes back to Europe, where they were useful to mask the odours of a mediaeval society. When the plague struck Europe, people realise the perfumers who were steeped in essential oils – stayed healthy.
The modern-day revival of aromatherapy came about 100 years ago when French to cosmetic scientists Renee-Maurice Gattefosse was severely burnt in a lab explosion. He plunged his wound into a bowl of lavender which helped it heal so wholly it did not leave a scar.
Gattefosse, who spent years researching the healing properties of essential oils, later coined the term “aromatherapy.”