Ancient man was dependent on his surroundings for everything
from food, to shelter and clothing. Being so keenly aware of everything
around him, and how it could be used for survival, he quickly discovered
methods to preserve food and treat ailments through herbs and aromatics.
Aromatherapy, as it is practiced today, began with the
Egyptians, who used the method of infusion to extract the oils from
aromatic plants which were used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes
as well as embalming.
At a similar time, ancient Chinese civilizations were
also using some form of aromatics. Shen Nung's herbal book (dating
back to approximately 2700 BC) contains detailed information on over
300 plants and their uses.
Similarly, the Chinese used aromatics in religious ceremonies,
by burning woods and incense to show respect to their Gods - a tradition
which is still practiced today. The use of aromatics in China was linked
to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure.
Aromatherapy has also been used for many centuries in
India. Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, uses dried
and fresh herbs, as well as aromatic massage as important aspects of
The Greeks acquired most of their medical knowledge from
the Egyptians and used it to further their own discoveries. They found
that the fragrance of some flowers was stimulating while others had
relaxing properties. The use of olive oil as the base oil absorbed
the aroma from the herbs or flowers and the perfumed oil was then used
for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
The Romans learned from the Greeks and became well known
for scented baths followed by massage with aromatic oils. The popularity
of aromatics led to the establishment of trade routes which allowed
the Romans to import "exotic" oils and spices from distant lands such
as India and Arabia.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the use of aromatics
faded and the knowledge of their use was virtually lost in Europe during
the dark ages.
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Rediscovery of a Healing Art