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Essential Oils - The Art of Aromatherapy

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The language of scent is universal.  The power of scent is unexplainable.  The effects of scent are real.  They invoke feelings, moods, memories, and a connection to people and places.  Scents can heal naturally. 

The History of Essential Oils

Essential oils are the oldest and some of the most powerful therapuetic agents known.  Some say essential oils were first used in China or India, but D. Gary Young's research indicates that the Egyptians were first to discover the therapeutic potential of essential oils.  The Egyptians created fragrances for personal use as well as for ritualistic and ceremonial use in temples and pyramids.  According to the earliest historical records available, they used balsamic substances with aromatic properties for medicines.  Egyptian high priests used fragrances for opening the subconscious mind and increasing their ability to communicate with the spirit world.

Translations of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese manuscripts describe how priests and physicians used essential oils thousands of years before the time of Christ.  The precious oils of frankincense, myrrh, galbanum, rosemary, hyssop, cassia, cinnamon, and spikenard were used extensively for annointing and healing the sick.  There are over a hundred references to aromatics in the Bible.  Biblical prophets appear to have recognized that essential oils protected their bodies from disease.  Why did the Wise men bring the precious substances of frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child?  Frankincense was well known during the time of Christ for its anointing and healing powers and is now being researched and used therapeutically in European and American hospitals.

In 1817 the 870-foot-long Ebers Papyrus was discovered.  Dating back to 1500 B.C., it was called a medicinal scroll.  It mentioned over 800 herbal prescriptions and rememdies.  Other scrolls indicate that the Egyptians had a high success rate in treating as many as 81 diffeent diseases.  Many mixtures they used contained myrrh oil and honey.  Myrrh was used for embalming because of its effectiveness in preventing bacterial growth.

When King Tutankhamen's tomb was opened in 1922, some 50 alabaster jars designed to hold 350 liters of oil were discovered. While tomb robbers had stolen nearly all of the precious oils, some of the jars still contained remains of their original contents.  The large cache of plundered oil jars documents how valuable fragrant oils were in this ancient civilization.

Egyptians and Babylonians believed that in order to reach a higher spirituality, they had to be clean and beautiful.  They practiced fumigation to disperse oils, purify the air, and provide protection from evil spirits.  They used the oils for medicinal purposes long before the individual herbs were studied for medical use.

The Romans fumigated and diffused oils in their temples and political buildings and scented their baths with oils followed by a fragrant oil massage.

The ancient Arabian people began to study the chemical properties of essential oils.  They developed and refined the distillation process.  They extracted rose oil and rose water, which were very popular in the Middle East at that time.  Kings would barter and buy land, gold and slaves with their crudely extracted oils.  The oils were more valuable than gold.

Europeans did not produce essential oils until the 12th centure.  During the Medieval plague of the 15the century, four thieves in Marsilles, France, were able to rob the dead and dying without becoming infected.  When finally captured, the men reportedly admitted to creating a concoction that contained 50 cloves and the herb rosemary, along with other aromatics.  They rubbed this potion on their hands, ears, and temples.  The secret of the thieves was made public and the formula was posted in the city.

During the Dark Ages and with the burning of libraries in Alexandria and other places, much of this knowledge of essential oils and their uses was lost.  Only through the cosmetic and pefume industry did the valualbe science of aromatherapy begin to resurface.


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