Living with Essential Oils: A Historical Blast from the Past


Throughout history, people were living with essential oils by using them in medicine, food, aromas, and religion by extracting the useful oils from roots, leaves, barks, seed, flowers, and flower buds some same practices were brought down through the ages today while some more refined methods of extraction were discovered later.

The earliest use goes as far back as 20000 years in cave paintings discovered in France and 45000 BC in Egypt. 3000-2500 BC essential oils were used in  China and India also. So many cultures saw the value of these oils.

Mind Body And Soul

Egyptians had recipes on how to extract oils from plants on their temple walls. The Egyptian culture used the oils for their religion,  medicine and in beauty care.

The famed Greek physician Hypocrites suggested taking aromatic baths and massages with the scented oils every day for good health and used the oils for healing in his practice.

Ayurveda medicine from India, believed to be at least 5000 years old, is still used in India today. Their sacred book, “The Vedas”, documents over 700 different herbs and spices used in religion and for therapeutic reasons.

The Romans took living with essential oils to the uttermost extreme as they used the oils for their fragrance in baths, massages, in their beds, hair, and body many times in a day. Pedanius, a physician for the Roman army, wrote five volumes of references on medicines with over 600 remedies in it as far back as 2700 BC.

In China, their medical text “Shennong’s Herbal” contains the use of 365 plants. Huangdi, known as the yellow emperor, wrote a book referring to the uses of essential oils that are still used today. China produces much of the essential oils used today.

The bible mentions ‘aromatic plants and oils’ in the old and new testament twelve times. Frankincense alone is mentioned 17 times. Many oils and recipes used today are as a result of biblical references to them.

The Persian, Ali-Ibn Sana, during 980-1037AC, wrote many books on plants and was the first to distill oils from them. His methods of distilling are used to this day.

In the 1400’s, Europe used oils to fight the bubonic plague.

The Secret

The Catholic church denounced the use of aromatics as indulgent and” inappropriate” reducing their use but they were still kept for their scent. The monks secretly kept knowledge of plant medicine alive. Whoever used essential oils at this time was thought of as a witch and made outcast or lost their lives for witchcraft.

Good For The Body

By the 1600’s, knowledge of herbal medicines and the essential oils was popular again.

By the 1800’s, England, Germany, and France were freely prescribing essential oils for many illnesses. The first test of essential oils for being antibacterial was in 1887.

In 1910 a lab accident caused Rene Maurice Gattefosse to immerse his hands in lavender oil. Before his accident, he had no interest to consider natural healing but because of his experience with his burn, he proceeded to treat soldiers during WWI 1920-1930 with lavender oil. One of Gattefosse’s colleagues Jean Parisian began to use essential oils in 1948-1959. When he was in China treating soldiers, he ran out of antibiotics. After the war, he continued using the essential oils and in 1964 published a book “The Practice of Aromatherapy” in 1980.

French doctor, Danrl Penoel, and French biochemist, Pierre Franchomme, co-authored a book, “L’Aromatherapy Today”.  In it, they listed medical properties of over 270 essential oils and their uses in a treatment environment. In France, Germany, and England a lot of doctors will offer natural essential oils or prescription medicine as a means of treatment.


So Many Choices

This lost art is coming back strong. Essential oils have stood the test of time. Through continued use throughout the ages, more and more uses and benefits are being found all the time in various physical, mental, spiritual, and environmental capacities. If you’re looking for answers, essential oils may be an option. Since 1980 there has been a renewed interest in essence oils. History has shown us over and over just how amazing essential oils are in providing alternative natural solutions that aid in our health and everyday living. Essential oils are where it’s at!!

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History Of Essential Oils. By Leah Morgan, clinical aromatherapist

History of essential oils on Essential oils academy

HEALTH & MEDICINE February 19, 2015

The History of Essential Oils

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  1. Paul says:

    Dear Melody,

    Thanks a lot for the informative and essential post on the history of essential oils.

    Since I am from India I totally agree and what you said is the truth “Ayurveda medicine from India, believed to be at least 5000 years old, is still used in India today. Their sacred book, “The Vedas”, documents over 700 different herbs and spices used in religion and for therapeutic reasons.”

    Few years back people never respected Ayurveda medicine and its value. Now people are well aware of its benefits and going for Ayurvedic treatments. Even more youngsters are interested in Ayurveda medicine and studying it.

    Thanks for the detailed walkthrough on the history and usage and benefits of essential oils.

    Wishing you great success!


    1. Melody says:

      I am glad that now people are actually realizing the value of Ayurveda medicine. In my opinion the contribution to man kind is more important than the credit given . We can learn a lot from our history.


  2. Raynold says:

    This is a very interesting article about essential oil. People were using essential oils since thousands of years ago because they know that it is very good for our health. My wife and I are fans of essential oil and our favorite is pure lavender. We really love it. The smell is very soothing. It is certainly very useful especially when we just got back from work. Essential oil helps us to relax and let go of all the problem at work.  It’s a shame there are so many people out there who don’t know the benefits of essential oil.  I hope you will share more articles related to essential oil in the future.

    1. The pure lavender essential oil is one of my favorite too. I hope people take the opportunity to get to know more about essential oils through my articles or others, they are surely worth knowing about.

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