A brief history of aromatics


People started discovering the healing power of herbs, roots, juices. Fragrant materials were used for external application for wound conditions – It is not yet essential oils.

EGYPT: 3000 BC

The Egyptians began the art of massage and reflexology ( the early form of cosmetology), perfumery, aromatic medicine, pharmacy. The common aromatics of that time included frankincense, myrrh, cedarwood, spikenard. One of the oldest and best-preserved documents that we know of, the Ebers Papyrus, documents the Egyptians’ use of frankincense and other aromatics in treating a variety of different ailments.

CHINA: 2,700 BC

The ancient Chineses are also believed to have been masters of the use of aromatic plants for healing.

INDIA: 2,000 BC

The Ayurvedic or Indian medicine is practised. The book Veda is the first book with written formulas.


Moses had a specific blend for the anointing oil. Myrrh was used for purification of women. Spikenard was used by women to anoint Jesus‘ feet and head.


The Greeks learned a lot about perfumery from the Egyptians. When Herodotus and Democrates visited Egypt in the fourth century BC, they declared that the people were “masters of the art of the perfumery”. Hippocrates used aromatic essences to fumigate the city of Athens to fight off the plague epidemic. He also suggested that the key to good health is found in taking a daily aromatic bath and receiving a daily scented massage.

ROMAN EMPIRE: 131 – 200 AD

The Romans also used aromatics to scent everything, their hairs, their clothes, their beds, their bodies, their military flags, the walls of their houses, and everything they could think of. They also used the oils and unguents in massage and baths.


The Arabs are credited with being the first to discover steam distillation as a method of extracting essential oils from plants. The Arabian physician’s Avicenna, is also said to be the inventor of this method of distillation.

RENAISSANCE: 15th century

In Europe between 60 to 70 essentials oils became well known


Most of the useful essential oils were discovered during this time and the knowledge spread out because of the invention of printing press in Europe

17 – 18th CENTURY

The beginning of the common use by people of essential oils and aromatics for health. The return of the bubonic plague increases the demand for aromatics. Large scale fumigation began. The connection between aromatics and health was firmly established.


Firm establishment of the art of perfumery separated from apothecary (medicinal use of). The area around Grasse in southern France became a major centre for the cultivation and extraction of essences for perfumery.


Essential oil was used in medicine up to the 1950. Aftermost they became more established in the use of flavour and fragrance in the cosmetic industry. These are the key people who contributed to the reestablishment of the therapeutic use of essential oils in the 20th century:


The French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé invented the term ” Aromatherapie” defined as a therapy employing aromatics.


The French docteur and scientist Jean Valnet established doses of essential oils to be used and treating various medical and psychiatric disorders.


The biochemist Marguerite Maury developed a unique method of applying essential oils to the skin with massage technique still used.


In the UK essential oils are mostly used in flavours and fragrances. Recently there seems to be a revival of the therapeutic use of essential oils as people search for alternative to traditional medicines.