What is the history of essential oils?

Essential oils are taking up more and more space on our shelves. But do we know where they came from? What are their origins? their history?

After Laurence Lebrun and Francoise Couic-Marinier, doctor and aromatherapy specialist. The history of essential oil is not new.

Françoise Couic-Marinier states in her book «Guide terre vivante des huiles essentiels»: “It may seem rather paradoxical that at the beginning of the 3rd Millennium we come to talk about essential oils as something new, a “trend”, a revolutionary. In reality since antiquity, probably even before, they were already used even if of course the manufacturing processes have experienced a significant evolution over the centuries. Essential oils and their healing properties were already known from ancient civilizations that disappeared (ancient Egypt, ancient China, ancient Greece) or were still alive.

Essential oil has multiple origins and has developed in multiple civilizations. Laurence Lebrun supports Françoise Couic-Marinier’s words in her book, “aromatherapy and its natural allies”:

“Already very early on all the continents, in prehistory among the Aborigines of Australia, in India, in China, among the Amerindians, ancient Greece and the Arab civilizations, and especially all around the Mediterranean, men have noticed different plants as aromatic. They used them to treat themselves in the form of fumigations, ointments, poultices. Techniques that will remain rudimentary for a long time will make it possible to obtain aromatic substances.

How does essential oil evolve over time?

In the Middle Ages, essential oil became democratized. Francoise Couic-Marinier says: “The Crusades of the Middle Ages brought the art of distillation back to the West. Aromatherapy then became the first source of drugs in the pharmacy, the pharmacists of the Middle Ages were moreover nicknamed «Aromatherii». “

She adds: “Grasse, a town famous for its perfumery, produced the first lavender essential oils in the 16th century. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, extensive research showed the antiseptic properties of essential oils. In 1910 Martindale classified essential oils according to their antiseptic power compared to phenols.

According to Françoise, a question therefore arises quite naturally. How is it that we only rediscover essential oils, when in the 1930s in France, we had an almost complete knowledge of aromatherapy?”

She says: At that time, France was unfortunately at the forefront of this field. In the 1930s the massive arrival on the French market of cheaper, perfectly reproducible synthetic drugs slowed down considerably this rise of aromatherapy.

And what about the history of organic ravintsara essential oil?

The first trace of use goes back to 1658. Commander Etienne de Flancourt in his history of the great island of Madagascar observes a massive use of ravintsara by the Malagasy population. They used ravintsara as a traditional remedy even then.

More info on this page: “the history of the ravintsara”link.