History of essential oils
There is evidence that essential oils were used for centuries in different cultures – for religious, healing and culinary uses and in beauty routines. The earliest evidence of human knowledge of the healing properties of plants was found in Lascaux in the Dordogne in France where cave paintings, dating from 18,000 BCE indicate that medicinal plants were used in everyday life.
The Egyptians used aromatic extracts as early as 4,500 BCE – and the most famous of their herbal preparations, ‘Kyphi’ was a mixture of 16 ingredients that could be used as incense, perfume or medicine. The Egyptians used balsams, perfumed oils, scented barks, resins, spices, and aromatic vinegars. There is also evidence that ashes and smoke from aniseed, cedar, onion, garlic, grapes, and watermelon were used but priests were the only people allowed to use aromatic oils as they were necessary to be ‘at one’ with the Gods. Specific fragrances were dedicated to each deity and their statues were anointed with oils by their followers. There are at least 180 references to aromatic oils in the Bible and 33 essential oils or aromatic oil-producing plants are mentioned including Cypress, Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Hyssop, Myrtle and, of course, the Frankincense and Myrrh gifted to Jesus by the Three Kings. The Egyptians didn’t distil their own oils – many were imported from China.