Historical Use of Fragrance
Student Article- Kimberly Klessig
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The first documented use of fragrances dates back to Egyptian times, where “essential oils” were used for embalming purposes, to delay decomposition. These oils have also been found inside Egyptian tombs. We know, today, that during those times, herbs were also regularly burned as a means for clarifying and purifying the air. These ancient civilizations also stumbled across the fact that smelling an aroma made one able to recall a memory tied to that fragrance. According to Petersen, the Egyptian people relied heavily on fragrances, to bathe and wash, as cosmetic protection from the sun. In these days, fragrances were developed into somewhat of a perfume industry but it was regulated mostly by the priests, who used aroma in religious ceremonies and mummification. Nonetheless, every text discussing Egyptians make mention of how they cherished fragrance as something special.
Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine, is reported to have advised that “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” He reportedly believed strongly in the medicinal benefit of fumigation with aromatics and used fumigation in the city of Athens to combat the plague. (“History of Essential Oils,” 2014, para. 6)
Theophrastus, a contemporary of Hippocrates, is known to have believed that perfumes were expected to have medicinal properties in view of the virtues of their spices. They had used plasters and poultices which proved the virtues could shrink tumors and heal abscesses, as well as having a positive effect on the body. (“History of Essential Oils,” 2014, para. 7)
The Latin word perfumum means “through smoke” and was the term used by Romans to describe fragrance, continuing the Greek practice of burning aromatic herbs. (Petersen, 2015, para. 12)
The Roman people used aromatic materials more than any culture previous to them. They bathed several times a day using fragrances and even massaged with oil. They used aroma to scent the hair, body and even their beds. (“History of Essential Oils,” 2014, para. 12)
Tracing the history of fragrance back from Egyptian times to modern day, we see how important scent was then to how we value it now. Not only is what we’re talking about pleasant to inhale and enjoy, we know that it does a body good!
History of Essential Oils. (2014). Retrieved from http://essentialoilsacademy.com/history
Petersen, D. (2015). Aromatherapy I. Portland OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Kimberly Klessig is a Registered Nursing studying Complementary Alternative Medicine at Ashford University, and Aromatherapy at Heart of Herbs. She is the mom of three sons and nature lover.
Disclaimer: For educational use only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Students articles reflect the views of the student and not necessarily Heart of Herbs Herbal School. Educational programs are available through Heart of Herbs You can purchase Herbal Healing for Children and 475 Herbal and Aromatherapy Recipes.