The use of Aromatherapy actually predates written history. Combinations of resins, oils and fragrant plants were used in some form; for ceremonial, medicinal, or pleasurable reasons in most ancient civilizations. Perfumes and aromatic plants were the basis for many of the early trade routes established. Some of the earliest documented uses of Aromatherapy were in Ancient Egypt. Many methods of application are similar to the ones used in Aromatherapy today. The Ancient Egyptians used aromatic plants and their essential oils to create massage oils, medicines, embalming preparations, and skin care products, fragrant perfumes and cosmetics.
There are other written accounts of aromatic oil use in Ancient Africa, Mesopotamia, Greece, Babylon, and China. In fact, the Chinese Yellow Emperor Book of Internal Medicine, written in 2697 BC, is the oldest surviving medical book in China; it contains information on more than 300 plants and their properties.
Greek and Roman civilizations later adopted the use of aromatic oils for both medicinal and cosmetic reasons. The Western world’s standard medical reference for more than 1200 years was a book on herbals written by the Greek physician Pedacius Dioscorides. In fact, many of his remedies are still in use in modern Aromatherapy. Aromatics were used in early Rome, where massage with oil would often follow a typical bath.
Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans used aromatic plants and oils in ceremony and in daily life. The Aztecs specifically were well known for their plant remedies, and a wealth of medicinal plants was found in Montezuma’s botanical gardens when the Spanish conquerors arrived. North American Indians also used aromatic oils, smudges, and aromatic plant-based remedies.
Today in the West, the popularity of Aromatherapy as an alternative or complementary therapy is growing rapidly. Already, in areas of Europe it is common to find mainstream doctors who practice Aromatherapy and health insurance companies that reimburse for treatments.