Essential oils have been used by many cultures around the world for centuries. Their uses varied between cultures from religious purposes to healing the sick. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when essential oils gained notoriety as effective healing agents, but eventually the knowledge of essential oils spread around the globe.
The earliest evidence of human knowledge of the healing properties of plants was found in Lascaux, located in the Dordogne region in France. There, cave paintings suggest the use of medicinal plants in every day life that have been carbon dated as far back as 18,000 B.C.E.
The Egyptians used cedar and myrrh in the embalming process and Pharaohs had their own special blends for meditation, love and other aspects of life.
Traditional Indian medicine called “Ayur Veda” has a 3000-year history of incorporating essential oils into their healing potions. Vedic literature lists over 700 substances including cinnamon, ginger, myrrh and sandalwood as effective for healing.
Between 400-500 B.C.E. the Greeks recorded knowledge of essential oils adopted from the Egyptians. Ointment of Myrrh was carried by soldiers into battle to counter infections.
In Greece, Hypocrites’ extensive knowledge of plants and their essences was Ayur Vedic in origin and was gained in part through the Greek soldiers’ encounters with Ayurvedic medicine on the Indian sub-continent during their travels with Alexander the Great. They found Ayur Veda to be harmonious with their own medicinal practices and evidence of the mingling of these two traditions can still be found in use by remote tribes today.
Hypocrites wrote “a perfumed bath and a scented massage everyday is the way to good health.” The literature left by him and his students contains the most important principle in modern medicine; “Above all the purpose of a doctor is to awaken the natural healing energies within the body”. Hypocrites’ wisdom influences modern medicine to this day in the form of the “Hippocratic Oath” taken by all doctors.
French Chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé coined the term “Aromatherapie” while investigating the antiseptic properties of essential oils. Gattefosse’s book “Aromatherapie” was published in 1928 in which he details cases of essential oils and their healing capabilities. The book was influential in medical practices in France
Gattefossé discovered the incredible healing properties of Lavender accidentally when a small explosion occurred in his laboratory. One of Gattefossé’s hands was badly burned. He quickly immersed it in the nearest tray of liquid. The liquid was essential oil of lavender and to his astonishment Gattefossé observed that his hand healed with no infection or scarring. He and a colleague conducted further research on the healing properties of lavender and introduced it to many of the hospitals in France. During the outbreak of Spanish influenza there were no reported deaths of hospital personnel, which was credited to the use of lavender.
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