A dose of aromatherapy history

Described as a way of healing through the use of oils derived from various plants to aid physiological and psychological well being, aromatherapy is considered as one of the oldest practices out there. Studies show that aromatherapy through the use of various oils has been practiced for thousands of years. However, it is only in the 20th century that the term "aromatherapy" started being used.

Experts say that the people in China were the first ones to utilize plants with aromatic and therapeutic properties for a person's well-being. The Chinese did this by burning dried plant extracts in the form of incense to help achieve balance and harmony. Years after that, aromatherapy was traced to the Egyptian culture where they invented a machine that extracts crude and oil from cedar wood, myrrh, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove and was used to embalm dead people. From that, Egyptians are said to have discovered infused oils and other herbal preparations that are still used for spiritual, aesthetic, and medicinal purposes. A machine with variations depending on the need and the plant type to be extracted was also invented by the early civilizations of India and Persia (now Iran).

With the progress of Egyptians, Greeks also made variations in terms of healing using plants. In fact, they also acknowledged the benefits of plant extracts in the field of healing. Because of the great potentials of plant extracts, even Hippocrates known as the "Father of Medicine" tried experimenting on it to achieve medicinal and aromatic benefits. Megallus, a Greek perfumer also discovered "megaleion," a fatty-oil from the plant myrrh which is known not only for its great aroma but also because of its anti-inflammatory properties that can heal various skin conditions.

Romans also made experimentations on plant extractions but were more focused on fragrance and not on the essential oils. The 11th century has marked a major movement in the emergence of essential oils with the discovery of a cooling pipe that is coiled by Avicenna. In the 12th century, Hildegard of Germany focused on lavender and its medicinal and therapeutic properties. The 13th century opened the doors for the public consumption of the essential oils with the birth of the pharmaceutical industry. In the 14th century, herbal preparations using mainly essential oils somehow helped fight the plague during the Black Death. The 15th to 19th century focused more on the discovery of other means of extracting plant extracts and the types of plants that have medicinal properties.

The 20th century paved the way for the booming of aromatherapy when Ren-Maurice Gattefoss, a French chemist invented the term and studied the medicinal uses and benefits of essential oils. Today, aromatherapy comes not only in the form of essential oils but also in other precuts such as incense, candles, bath and body products and many more.