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The influence of different aromas on the psychological and physical condition of man has been known of since ancient times. The first authentic evidence regarding the extraction of essential oils was found on a Sumerian clay tile dated about 5000 years BC. Yet the Egyptians, who widely used aromatic extracts from different plants to influence the body and soul, are considered to be the true discoverers. There are multiple records which confirm the usage of essential oils in Egypt. They were used as medication, to propitiate the gods and even in mummification in which cedar oil plays a main role.

The use of different aromas was widely spread in Greece, Rome, China and many other ancient nations. Weddings and funerals were unthinkable without aromas. All religious ceremonies were performed with different fragrances in the background. Most of the medical substances used by ancient healers contained essential oils. To relief childbirth they used clove oil; for healthy body – lemon, sandal, juniper; for healthy spirit – frankincense, myrtle, etc. In ancient Babylon aromatic oils were even added in the building materials from which temples were built. They used lemon, cedar and myrtle oils. This way they disinfected the interior of the temple.

Fragrances symbolized welfare and were an expensive gift. For example, the frankincense was as valued as gold. It was widely used in religious ceremonies. The frankincense is a type of vegetative resin. The extraction of aroma from it was done by burning it on embers. From this procedure the name of perfumery was born: “per fumum” – from Latin “by fume”.

Valuable information about the healing properties of essential oils has reached us thanks to the famous scholars from ancient times Galen, Plutarch, Anacreon, Dioscorides. Their works became the foundation of European medicine and pharmacology and contain many descriptions of essential oils and their healing properties. For example during the first century Dioscorides wrote a book called “De Materia Medica” in five volumes and the first volume was called “Fragrances, vegetative oils, ointments, plants”.

With the fall of the Roman Empire the usage of essential oils Europe ceased for centuries.

In India, China, Japan, and in the Arab States the use of essential oils developed following its own way. The Arabs were those who taught the art of extraction of essential oils to the Europeans again. During the crusades this art along with the knowledge of essential oils found its way back to Europe.

In the XVIth century “The book of the art of distillation” was published in Germany by the physiologist Braunschweig, from Strasburg. In this book 25 different essential oils are described. From the XVth century to the beginning of the XVIIIth about 120 types of essential oils which have use in medicine and cosmetics were discovered.

Thanks to their reliable antimicrobial effect essential oils were used in the struggle with infections and epidemics for centuries. A great example for this is the English village Bucklebury. In the XVIII century its residents saved themselves from the plague because the village was a lavender production centre and the air was full of its aroma. It is also known that the medieval French perfumers from the essential oils production centre in Gras were very rarely affected by tuberculosis, cholera or the plague. 

In the XIXth century naturopathy was replaced by chemical products both in production and medicine. Synthetic doubles of different natural materials, including essential oils, started to appear. But the constitution of the essential oils is so complicated that chemical reproduction of all of their elements (above 500) is practically impossible. The produced synthetic doubles only resembled the real essential oils.

The term aromatherapy (literally - treatment through aromas) was introduced for the first time by the French Chemist – Doctor Rene Gatefosse in 1928. Gatefosse researched essential oils for cosmetic products. But his observations proved the impressive antiseptic and healing properties of the oils. During the First World War he treated patients in military hospitals and got astonishing results in the treatment of wounds using chamomile, frankincense and lemon oils.

In the thirties of our century all progressive clinics in Europe began to use essential oils in the recovery of patients after trauma, surgery or acute pathological processes. Numerous publications, books and researches regarding the usage of essential oils in cases of dozens of diseases appear. Amongst those diseases are tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer and others.

In the end of the sixties scientific theories about the healing effect of essential oils became more precise because to the base theories of Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna, Hofmann, Gatefosse, Valne new were added. For example Buchbauer’s theory about the transfer of aromas through proteins and V. Nikolaevsky’s idea regarding the application of essential oils in pulmonology and harmful productions.

Nowadays aromatherapy is experiencing great popularity in Europe and America. Modern scientists have proved that essential oils belong to the category of low toxic and safe substances with pronounced healing effects. Today even the medical insurance companies have begun to include aromatherapy in their list of offered services. This is related to the people’s wish to avoid using the numerous chemicals, with their many harmful side effects, that flood the market.


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