The usage of essential oils stretches back for centuries and has been used in hundreds of different cultures, as well as appearing in historic texts such as the Bible (at least 33 different varieties are mentioned) and other documents - In fact as early as the beginning of recorded history. Prized for the beauty enhancements, medicinal and spiritual uses and providing aromatic and therapeutic value, some of the earliest usages date back to periods of 3000-2500 BC.
Generally it is thought that use of the plant extract as oils originated in Egypt, however it is also known to have been used in India and China at a similar time. The usage was widely spread in Egypt, and as a culture that took beauty care seriously took full advantage of the different benefits each oil provides. Ruling families, royalty and priests often wore expensive aromatics, and some of the blends and recipe are still used in our every day life. When Tutankhamen's tomb was opened in 1922, specially carved containers for essential oils were discovered - minus the oils though!
Much of the Egyptian knowledge influenced other cultures, notably Greek and Roman. The Greek psychican Hippocrates, considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine, is reported to have extensively promoted the usage of plant extracts and felt that "the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day" due to the way that any application of oils externally, influences the internal workings of the body. The Romans were known to use aromatic oils extensively, frequently using them to bathe in, scent their hair and beds.
The reports of usage of oils in Indian culture dates back to 2000 BC, with historical texts such as The Vedas mentioning over 700 different herbs and oils. They are widely used there today, predominantly through the use in aromatic massage, with some of the most popular scents in use being Cinnamon, Ginger and Sandalwood.
The Chinese were also known to use oils in traditional medicine techniques, with texts dating back to 2700 BC contiaining information of plant extracts. Today China is one of the most prolific exporters of essential oils.
Reports of usage in Europe appeared later - During the middle ages the use of aromatics was denounced by the Catholic Church, deeming usage inappropriate. It fell to the Monks of the time to continue the usage, despite the threats, with many sacrificing their lives during the period to ensure the knowledge and process continued. By the 17th century however, text surrounding the usage of plant extract and oils was more widespread, with major European countries beginning to offer them as a resolved for a variety of ailments. The first recorded test of the anti-bacterial properties of oils, first noticed from the prevention of the spread of Tuberculosis, was conducted in 1887.
Essential Oils have proved their medicinal and therapeutic benefits over the course of history, and today are widely used in the the practice of aromatherapy. You can find our range of essential oils here.