The History of Essential Oils

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Since ancient times, the plant kingdom has provided rare and powerful extracts and essences that have long been admired for their beauty enhancing, spiritual and healing value.

Many civilisations around the world have used essential or aromatic oils for thousands of years. One of the unique aspects of the history of essential oils is that they seemed to have been developed independently by different cultures as they saw their unique importance.

Aromatic plants, essences and oils have been used for ages in ceremony, religion, beauty care, food preparation and preservation. Aromatic plants have also been the basis for herbal and botanical medicines and remedies for thousands of years. In fact, they’re the root of modern pharmaceuticals.

The earliest essential oils usage evidence occurs in the period of 3000-2500 B.C. It’s common to believe the Ancient Egyptians first used them but some people researchers believe that China and India were also using them around similar times.

The bottom line is, history of the following cultures has enriched and enhanced valuable features of the essential oils and made the aromatherapy world what it is today.



The ancient Egyptians discovered the magic of essential oils as early as 3000BC. It happened to shape their daily lives as the use of aromatics was introduced into their beauty care, spiritual enhancement, medicine and so much more.

Egyptians were renowned for their passion for Beauty; in fact, they took it incredibly seriously, being considered remarkably accomplished in all kinds of specialised beauty treatments. A glance back in history reveals a depiction of truly beautiful women throughout their mesmerising history which epitomises their amazing culture. With names such as Nefertiti and Cleopatra being of note. It was rumoured that their attraction was heightened through their extensive use of the conventional Egyptian essential oils, fatty oils, clays, salts and other naturally occurring treatments.

Expensive aromatics and perfumes were worn in Egypt by the ruling families and the priests. The use of natural oils and fragrances was originally a treat of the priests and Pharaohs. Egyptian temple priests were the doctors at the time. They were recognised for their herbal preparations, tinctures, salves and ointments. They employed the vast variety of aromatic balms, resins and powders in many ways for both religious and medicinal purposes. Formulas and recipes for the ancient remedies are still considered highly prized in our world today. Egyptian medicine was inseparable from religion and healing always took place in both body and mind.



In Indian culture, essentials oils have been of utmost importance and a core element of the Indian Ayurvedic Health Care System. A natural healing system is combining spiritual, practical and philosophical aspects.

The term Ayurveda, a traditional Indian text, is rooted in Sanskrit. It has been derived from the words “Ayur,” which means ‘life’, and Veda,” indicating ‘knowledge’. India’s most sacred book, ‘The Vedas’ mentions over 700 different herbs and aromatics investigating all their uses for religious and therapeutic purposes. Basil is one of the sacred plants in India, believed to open the heart and mind, while also bestowing the energy of love and devotion. Sacred to Vishnu and Krishna Indian deities, it is said to strengthen faith, compassion and clarity.

We understand Ayurvedic medicine has been practised for thousands of years, but it wasn’t as well documented as the ancient Egyptians. In fact, Ayurvedic medicine is still widely practised in India today. Ancients records were found from 2000BC that states Doctors were administering essential oils to their patients which included Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Myrhh, Sandalwood and Spikenard.



Herbs and plant medicine are a fundamental part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and also hold massive importance in Chinese Folk Medicine.

In China, the first use of essential oils was noted during the reign of Huang Ti, the Yellow Emperor around 2697 to 2597BC. The book that Huang Ti wrote on internal medicine embraces several different aromatic oils and is still used as a foundation by many who study in Eastern medicine today.

Another exciting bit of medical text is the Shennong’s Herbal, which dated around 2700 BC, containing information on the usage of 365 plants. Shennong was a ruler, father of Chinese herbal medicine, and cultural hero of China who showed his people the practices of agriculture. He consumed hundreds upon hundreds of herbs to test their medical value. He was also known to have discovered tea and to be the father of Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture.

In today’s aromatherapy world, along with contributing the valuable historical plant medicine texts, China is notoriously known for being one of the biggest producers of essential oils.



Much of the education that became part of the Greek culture was derived from the ancient Egyptians.

The Greek physician Hippocrates was an essential oil pioneer and is still influential on the medical community today. This great man was considered to be the father of modern medicine. He went into great depth and studied countless numbers of plants to document their medicinal properties. Reports say that he advised that people should have an aromatic bath and message every day to achieve greater health. I'll be honest; this sounds like music to my ears!

He reportedly believed firmly in the medicinal benefit of fumigation with aromatics and used fumigation in the city of Athens to combat the plague. He also prescribed aromatic treatments for fallen soldiers on the battlefields. He was a firm believer in treating the patient holistically and included aromatherapy massage as a treatment.


Modern Day

Although it has been practised for thousands of years, Aromatherapy has only recently become popular in our culture. This is a result of a return to a holistic lifestyle, recognising the importance of combining the mind, body and spirit. All in the hope of achieving optimum health and wellness.

Modern day scientific research has continually proven not only the emotional but the physical benefits that aromatherapy provides. With growing health care costs, we have turned to nature to find the answers to our problems. We have realised that we must take personal responsibility for our health and endeavour to educate ourselves on living more balanced and maintainable lives.

We are all pursuing answers for the illnesses that pervade our community, and the pressures that this fast-paced modern life place on us. Over the counter prescriptions may have answered a few of these questions, but we are continuously seeking for more.

Medicines and therapies that were once viewed as an alternative and always cloaked in a shroud of scepticism has now become an essential part of many everyday lives. Aromatherapy is one such example, and a potent one, of a complementary therapy widely practised today.

Aromatherapy is all around us, and for some of us, we don't even know the foggiest about it. When you burned that scented candle last week, you were practising Aromatherapy. Funnily enough, virtually all of the bath and body care products we use contain some form of essential oils - the heart of Aromatherapy.

This is one of the reasons Aromatherapy is so prevalent today. It is easily accessible to practice and readily available here at Mystic Moments. A lot of people have turned their back on our consumer society and would rather produce products themselves (which are probably of higher quality). A lot of big companies may have fancy packaging and labelling but ask yourself this, is it value for money? The answer is, probably not.

You can make most things yourself and have the knowledge and awareness of every last ingredient you wish to expose to yourself or your family. In some cases, it can turn out to be a lot more financially viable. All these skin care products with hefty price tags, to put it bluntly, you're paying for the brand. Most of these products contain simple and basic ingredients you could whip up yourself within a matter of minutes. As a nation, we need to wise up and ignore the eye-catching packaging and focus on the critical aspects, like the ingredients.


Look after your friends.

Look after your family.

Look after your loved ones.

Look after yourself.

The time for change starts now, so check out the natural ingredients here at Mystic Moments and join the revolution!

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