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A Brief History of Essential Oils

history of essential oils
Essential oils are the oldest and some of the most powerful therapeutic agents know to man. Historically, they span centuries of use in healing, therapy, and religious ritual throughout the ancient world.


Since the use of essential oils is present in many countries, it is difficult to pinpoint where the practice originated. Oils have been used by the Jews, Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans both as cosmetics, perfumes, and for their medicinal purposes. Some cultures even used oils in spiritual rituals.


The story goes that during the great plague in Europe in 1413, a small band of thieves were captured in Marseilles, France, and charged with robbing the dead and dying bubonic plague victims. Although this "Black Death" (Pasteurella pestis) was highly contagious, not one of this morbid band of thieves ever contracted the disease.

The king, eager to protect himself and the Royal family, demanded to know how the thieves had avoided the plague. Related by blood to a lineage of apothecaries, the thieves were familiar with a combination of specific plant oils that when rubbed over their bodies, protected them from contracting this most feared and deadly disease. They rubbed a concoction that included clove, rosemary, and cinnamon on their hands, ears and temples. This same formulation found in the Royal English Archives is available today from Young Living Essential Oils called the "Thieves" oil blend.

In fact, in 1997, Weber State University did a study that found this oil to have a 99.96% success rate at killing airborne bacteria

IThe modern beginning of essential oils and aromatherapy began to blossom in the early decades of the twentieth century.

In July of 1910, the lab of French cosmetic chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, Ph.D. exploded, setting his hand and arm on Fire. In a panic, he plunged his arm in what he assumed was water. However, it actually contained pure Lavender oil. Pleasantly surprised at the analgesic effects and fearing further damage resulting from the accident, he continued with regular application of Lavender oil. The wound healed with very little scaring. He then investigated the chemistry of the oil in order to discover what properties had caused this tremendous healing effect. Dr. Gattefossé continued his examinations of the healing compounds of other essential oils. His studies laid the groundwork for the clinical use of essential oils.


This work was followed by Jean Valnet, M.D. also in France. Valnet was a French army doctor who began using essential oils to treat wounded soldiers and heal gangrene during the Second World War. His post-war books introduced aromatherapy to a wider audience and lead to several more respected publications. Two of Valnet’s students, Dr. Paul Belaiche and Dr. Jean Claude Lapraz expanded his work. They analyzed the antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties in essential oils. In 1979, Dr. Belaiche published a work that included results of extensive in-vitro research on the antimicrobial effects of essential oils and their subsequent clinical applications on a wide range of infectious and degenerative illnesses. These advances lead to a selected level of acceptance by conventional medical doctors, other healthcare professionals, and even insurance companies in France and other countries.


For over 5,000 years, many different cultures have used these healing plant oils for a variety of health conditions. They are often used for relaxation, beauty care, home cleaning and most often used as natural medicine.

Just adding some of the most common essential oils like lavender, frankincense, lemon, peppermint and tea tree oil to your natural medicine cabinet can:


  • Fight cold and flu symptoms

  • Relax your body and soothe sore muscles

  • Heal skin conditions

  • Alleviate pain

  • Balance hormones

  • Improve digestion

  • Reduce cellulite and wrinkles

  • Clean your home

  • Used in homemade personal care products



There are also trained professionals such as aromatherapists, physical therapists, massage therapists, nutritionists or even doctors of natural medicine who use aromatherapy in their practice and are trained in specific uses for essential oils.

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