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More about essential oils - History

Humans in multiple cultures have depended on essential oils since before recorded time.

The earliest known medical text is from 2700BC. Called  “Shennong’s Herbal” it is the basis of Chinese medicine today.

The Ancient Egyptians used essential oils not only for mummification and embalming but also as part of their daily lives.

We know Cleopatra used them extensively, especially to rejuvenate her skin and protect it from the sun. She was described as “clouded in a scent of mystery”

In Ancient Greece in the 4th century BC Hippocrates studied and documented over 200 different herbs. He was one of the first to believe that disease was caused naturally rather than as a punishment from God.

The crusaders were credited with bringing knowledge of herbal medicines and distillation processes back from the Middle East, however i am sure that “wise women” and some monasteries knew a fair bit about healing herbs before that.


During the “Black Death” herbs were often burned to fumigate whole towns.

There was a protective blend called “The Four Thieves”, combining:  Eucalyptus,  Clove,  Rosemary,  Thyme,  and  Sage.

There were four brothers who became grave robbers during the great plague. This, naturally caused outrage but not much was done to apprehend them because the general assumption was that they would soon catch the disease - and serve them right! The amazing thing was that they never did.

They were eventually caught and it turned out that they were the sons of a perfumer and herbalist and had learned all about essential oils at home.  Their knowledge of which essential oils were anti-bacterial meant they could rub their bodies with a protective blend and use it to clean anything they brought back from the graves

In the 1800 essential oils and herbs went out of fashion with the emergence of pharmaceutical companies.

A French chemist called Rene-Maurice Gattefosse began extensive research into essential oils. He burned his hand badly and, because it was nearest, plunged his hand into a barrel of Lavender oil. The burn healed so quickly he knew he need to discover more.

This led to more extensive research with a colleague. They introduced lavender  oil into French hospitals and during the Spanish flu epidemic not one on the hospital staff died. This was credited to the use of lavender oil.

Much more research has been and is still being done into just how good for us they are. If you want to know more go to the “more about essential  oils - science.