What is the History of Aromatherapy?

Harriette Halepis
Harriette Halepis
Dried vanilla beans. The vanilla scent can often help relieve stress.
Dried vanilla beans. The vanilla scent can often help relieve stress.

Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years, though the term "aromatherapy" is relatively new. The term itself simply refers to the use of aromatic plant oil for psychological and physical well-being. Therefore, the history of aromatherapy can be traced at least as far back as the Ancient Egyptians who used oils from various plants while mummifying the dead.

Aromatherapy oil.
Aromatherapy oil.

In addition to the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Greeks also used various plant oils in order to heal sick or wounded people. Numerous plants were also burned as a form of incense throughout Ancient Greece. While the Greeks believed that these plant oils came directly from the gods, historians have discovered that the Ancient Chinese may have used various plant oils before the Greeks. Thus, the true history of aromatherapy may have begun with the Ancient Chinese.

Aromatherapy lotion and a scented candle.
Aromatherapy lotion and a scented candle.

Chinese medicine has always been heavily dependent upon plant oil, and numerous plants are considered powerful in relation to Chinese medicine. While the Chinese, Egyptians, and Greeks all used plant oils as a form of aromatherapy, historians have discovered that the Romans used plant oils as well. In order to create shrines to various gods, the Ancient Romans would burn various plants and rub plant oil on sacred items. It was believed that these oils and plants would appease the gods.

Aromatherapists have extensive knowledge about essential oils.
Aromatherapists have extensive knowledge about essential oils.

The history of aromatherapy is apparent throughout the centuries, since plants have always been an important part of every culture. Around the 16th century, plant oils were available to consumers throughout the world. Small shops often sold these oils, and many people began to use the oils for various reasons.

As the scents of certain plants became popular, more and more people began to seek plant-based perfumes. During the 19th century, men and women alike sought perfumes made from rare plants. At this point in time, the history of aromatherapy began to change, since many plant oils were purchased for their scent, and not for their healing powers.

Professional perfume makers called "perfumiers" began to set up shops around the globe. Certain perfumiers throughout Paris became popular worldwide, and many people traveled great distances to buy flower-based perfumes made by famous Parisian perfumiers. Once the 20th century rolled around, perfumes were no longer as popular as they once were, and many people began to view plants for their healing properties once again.

As pharmaceutical companies began to base cosmetic formulas upon plant oils, aromatherapy began to take shape once more. Today, aromatherapy is popular throughout the world, and many people seek the healing power of plants regularly. While the history of aromatherapy began thousands of years ago, many people still believe that plant-based oils are extremely powerful.

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