Ancient Egyptians believed bodies rubbed with Cedarwood Essential Oil would be preserved forever. They would also burn the wood as incense as an offering to the gods. Egyptians also used essential oils is baths and massages to increase the elasticity of the skin. This was a necessity due to the dry hot climate. Their skin would become dry and wrinkled without the use of essential oils.
In 500 BC China, the Philosopher “Confucius” sated “temples were hung with blossoms of magnolia, peach, jasmine and jonquil. This ritual was later adopted by Christians as part of regular prayer services.
Greeks and Romans were the first to start using essential oils outside of the religious activities. They used essential oils to perfume their bodies. Crusaders bought back many herbs and oils from various holy grounds back to their native countries.
The Queen of Sheeba is said to have trapped King Solomon using frankincense and myrrh essential oils. Frankincense and myrrh, if you recall, are two of the gifts the three kings brought to baby Jesus. These were considered of high value back then. It is also said that prayers mixed with incense smoke would mean the soul would go to heaven much quicker. The smoke that a priest waves over and around a coffin at a funeral is actually frankincense. Perhaps it was used because a common healing property of frankincense is that it is a sedative. So, it helps get the soul to heaven faster and it can actually calm the mourners.
The Romans used essential oils generously. They perfumed their bodies mostly because bathing was something that only happened once a week. It is even said that Romans put perfume on the sails of their ships!
During the middle ages, we know that plagues swept across Europe. Doctors and herbalists used rosemary, sage, peppermint, orange and cloves to prevent and cure these plagues. They often burned incense in the streets in the hope to prevent the spreading of the plague. It is often said that those who worked with the essential oils were never infected by the plagues.
Around the 1700's, the use and interest in essential oils began to decline. This was due to the fact that medical science developed. It was not until 1928 that aromatherapy was re-introduced and the interest in essential oils is growing at a very fast pace.
So you see, the use of essential oils dates very far back in history. I only wish that we did not get away from herbal cures!