History of Aromatherapy

The burning of incense in ancient religious ceremonies  is one of the first uses of aromatherapy.

The history of aromatherapy is believed to have begun with the burning of fragrant woods, leaves, needles, and tree gums in ancient times. This practice probably arose from the discovery that some firewoods, such as cypress and cedar, filled the air with scent when they burned. In fact, our modern word perfume is derived from the Latin per fumum, which means "through smoke."

Incense was not the only early use of fragrance, however. Sometime between 7000 and 4000 B.C.E., Neolithic tribes learned that animal fats, when heated, absorbed plant's aromatic and healing properties. Perhaps fragrant leaves or flowers accidentally dropped into fat as meat cooked over the fire. The information gleaned from that accident led to other discoveries: Such plants added flavor to food, helped heal wounds, and smoothed dry skin far better than nonscented fat. These fragrant fats -- the forerunners of our modern massage and body lotions -- scented the wearer, protected skin and hair from weather and insects, and relaxed aching muscles. They also affected people's energies and emotions.

Aromatic water, a third type of fragrant product, was actually a combination of essential oils, water, and alcohol. It was used to enhance the complexion and scent the skin and hair. It also was ingested as a medicinal tonic. It was the forerunner of our modern perfume.

As civilization became more advanced, incense, body oils, and aromatic waters were combined into blends to heal the mind, body, and spirit. Thus, throughout the world, aroma became an integral part of healing and lay the foundation for our use of aromatherapy today. In this article, we will review the history of aromatherapy, from ancient times to the present day. We will begin on the next page with a look at the fragrance trade, which brought essential oils all around the world.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Here you will learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.