For centuries many people have believed that plants contain healing powers....in their seeds, flowers, petals, leaves, bark and roots. Plants have been used as skin tonics, medicines,aphrodisiacs, mind stimulants/calmers, insect deterrents, hair treatments, air fresheners, perfumes and more.
As long ago as 3,000 BC, herbal essences were being used as medicinal aids in China and Egypt.
The Egyptians developed body beautifiers using herbal essences and Egyptian Priests were amongst the first people to use aromatics. Some of the aromatics they used included Cinnamon, Frankincense and Myrrh...all of which are common names still.
Around 50 BC, the Greeks began to use what they'd learned from the Egyptians, creating their own medicinal and beautifying aromatics. The Greek, Megallus, is believed to have created a famous perfume, Megaleion - which was used for healing wounds and reducing inflammation, as well as for its scent.
The Romans are well known for their usage of herbalism and aromatherapy - influenced, of course, by the Egyptians and Greeks. Galen was the Greek physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and wrote a treatise on Medicine which included herbal therapy. The oldest form of Indian medicine often included the use of Sandalwood which is readily available today.
The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries saw a rise in the popularity of perfumes in England to mask the unpleasant odours of unwashed bodies and clothing. During the plague years, it's been said that the perfumers of the time were immune due to being surrounded by essential oils most of the time. Nicholas Culpeper (a name synonymous with essential oils today wrote his famous work 'The Complete Herbal' in 1653.
In the 20th Century a French chemist named Gattefosse (interested in the use of aromatherapy for skin problems) discovered the effectiveness of Lavender oil on burns when he injured his hand in a minor lab explosion and treated it with the oil. The progress of aromatherapy was brought to a halt by WW2, with the exception of an army surgeon named Dr.Valnet who'd been greatly influenced by the work of Gattefosse and the benefits of essential oils in the treatment of war wounds. When the war ended he continued using the oils in his role as a doctor and published a comprehensive work, called Aromatherapie, in 1964 - earning him global recognition.
Recently there has been a revival in the use of natural therapies, including aromatherapy, and the benefits and uses of essential oils are more widely accepted and appreciated.