top of page
BeFunky-collage (1) (1).jpg

Historical References and Rediscovery!

For many centuries essential oils were used for religious rituals, the treatment of illness, and other physical and spiritual needs. Perhaps the people of ancient times had a greater understanding of essential oils then we have today.

Records dating back to 4500 B.C. describe the use of balsamic substances with aromatic properties for religious rituals and medical applications.

The Egyptians were masters in using essential oils. Historical records describe how one of the founders of “pharaonic” medicine was the architect Imhotep, who was the Grand Vizier of King Djoser (2780 – 2720 B.C.). Imhotep is often given credit for ushering in the use oils, herbs, and

aromatic plants for medicinal purposes.

Hieroglyphics on the walls of Egyptian temples depict the blending of oils and describe hundreds of oils recipes. A sacred room in the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae depict a ritual called “Cleansing the Flesh and Blood of Evil Deities”. This emotional clearing required three days of cleansing using essential oils.

An ancient papyrus found in the Temple of Edfu contained medicinal formula and perfume recipes used by alchemists and high priests in blending aromatic substances for rituals.

The Egyptians may be the first to discover the potential of fragrance. They created various aromatic blends for both personal use and for ceremonies performed in the temples and pyramids.

Well before the times of Christ, the ancient Egyptians collected essential oils and placed them in alabaster vessels. These vessels were specially carved and shaped for housing essential oils. In 1922, when King Tut’s tomb was opened, some 50 alabaster jars designed to hold 350 litters of oils were discovered. While tomb robbers had stolen nearly all of the precious oils, some of the jars still contained oil traces. The robbers chose oils over the literal king’s ransom in glittering gold showing how valuable fragrant essential oils were to this ancient civilization.

In 1817, the Ebers Papyrus, a medical scroll over 870 feet long, was discovered. Dating back to 1500 B.C., the scroll included over 800 different herbal prescriptions and remedies. Other scrolls described a high success rate in treating 81 different diseases. Many mixtures contained Myrrh and honey. Myrrh is still recognized for its ability to help with infections of the skin and throat and to regenerate skin tissue. Because of its effectiveness in preventing bacterial growth, Myrrh was used for embalming.

The physicians of Ionia, Attia, and Crete came to the cities of the Nile to increase their knowledge. At this time, the school of Cos was founded by Hippocrates (460 to 377 B.C.), whom the Greeks, with perhaps some exaggeration, named the “Father of Medicine”.

The Roman purified their temples and political buildings by diffusing essential oils. They also used aromatic in their steam baths to both invigorate the fresh and ward off disease.

Life Science Publishing (2016), "Essential Oils Desk Reference Special First Edition Hardcover".


Biblical References

There are over 200 references to aromatics, incense, and ointments throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Aromatics, such as Frankincense, Myrrh, Galbanum, Cinnamon, Cassia, Rosemary, Hyssop, and Spikenard were used for anointing and healing 

the sick. In Exodus, the Lord gave the following recipe for Mosses for the holy anointing oil: five hundred shekels (about one gallon) of Myrrh, two hundred and fifty shekels of Cinnamon, two hundred and fifty shekels of Calamus, fife hundred shekels of Cassia and an hin (about 1 1/3 gallons) of Olive Oil.


The New Testament records that wise men presented the Christ child with Frankincense and Myrrh. There is another precious aromatic, Spikenard, described in the anointing of Jesus: “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came woman having an alabaster box of ointment of Spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head” (Mark 14:3). The anointing of Jesus is also referred to in John 12:3: “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of Spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with  her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.”


The Bible also records an incident where an incense offering by Aaron stopped a plague. Numbers 16:46-50 records that Moses instructed Aaron to take a censer, add burning coals and incense, and to “go quickly into the congregation to make an atonement for them: for there is a wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun.” The Bible records that Aaron stood between the dead and the living and the plague was stayed. It is significant to the biblical and Talmudic recipes for incense, three varieties of Cinnamon were involved. Cinnamon is known to be highly antimicrobial, anti-infectious, and antibacterial. The incense ingredient listed as “stacte” is believed to be a sweet, myrrh-related spice, which would make it anti-infectious and antiviral as well.

Life Science Publishing (2016), "Essential Oils Desk Reference Special First Edition Hardcover".

Other References

Napoleon is reported to have liked a cologne water made of Neroli and other ingredients so much that he ordered 162 bottles of it. After conquering Jerusalem, one of the things the Crusaders brought back to Europe was solidified essence of roses.


And the 12th century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, used herbs and oils extensively in healing. This Benedictine nun founded her own convent and was the author of numerous works. Her book, Physica, has more than 200 chapters on plants and their uses for healing.

Life Science Publishing (2016), "Essential Oils Desk Reference Special First Edition Hardcover".


The Rediscovery

The reintroduction of essential oils into modern medicine first began during the late 19th and early 20th century.

During World War 1, the use of aromatic essences in civilian and military hospitals became widespread. One physician in France, Dr. Monciere, used essential oils extensively for 

their antibacterial and wound-healing properties and developed several kinds of aromatic ointments.

Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, Ph.D.. a French cosmetic chemist, is widely regarded as the father of aromatherapy. He and a group of scientists began studying essential oils in 1907.


In his 1937 book, Aromatherapy, Dr. Gattefosse told the real story of his now-famous use of Lavender essential oil to heal a serious burn. The tale has assumed mythic proportions in essential oil literature. While the event did not start him on the road to essential oil research (he was already studying the oils), his own words about this accident are even more powerful than what has been told over the years.


Dr. Gattefosse was literally aflame – covered in burning substances – following a laboratory explosion in July, 1910. After he extinguished the flame by rolling on a grassy lawn, he wrote that “both my hands were covered with rapidly developing gas gangrene. Dr. Gattefosse said that “just one rinse with Lavender essence stopped the gasification of the tissue. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating and healing, which began the next day.”


Robert B. Tisserand, the editor of The International Journal of Aromatherapy, searched for Dr. Gattefosse book for 20 years. A copy was located and Tisserand edited the 1995 reprint. Tisserand noted that Dr. Gattefosse’s burns “must have been serve to lead to gas gangrene, a very serious infection. “


Dr. Gattefosse shared his studies with his colleague and friend, Jean Valnet, a medical doctor practising in Paris. Exhausting his supply of antibiotics as a physician in Tonkin, China, during World War !!, Dr Valnet began using therapeutic-grade essential oils on patients suffering battlefield injuries. To his surprise, they exerted a powerful effect in combating and counteracting infections. He was able to save the lives of many soldiers who might otherwise have died.


Two of Dr. Valnet’s students, Dr. Paul Belaiche and Dr. Jean Claude Lapraz, expanded his work. They clinically investigated the antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties in essential oils.

Because of the work of these doctors and scientists, the healing power of essential oils is again gaining prominence.

Life Science Publishing (2016), "Essential Oils Desk Reference Special First Edition Hardcover".

rose print.png
bottom of page