History of Essential Oils


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Because I had only heard of essential oils within the past couple years, I assumed that they were a brand new discovery. But it turns out that people have been using them since 4500 B.C. You can find evidence of their use throughout history all over the globe – in China, India, Europe, and even America!

Egypt

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We know there was very widespread use of oils in Ancient Egypt, because many hieroglyphics have been found describing different recipes using essential oils. Archaeologists have found distillation pots dating back as far as 3,500 B.C., but the Egyptians also used oils aromatically. They used essential oils for promoting wellness, religious purposes, cosmetics, and embalming mummies.  It’sclear that even Pharaohs considered oils “essential” because they would store large quantities of it in their tombs to save for the afterlife.

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China

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The first recorded use of aromatic oils in China dates back to about 2697 B.C. This was during the reign of Huang Ti, the legendary Yellow Emperor. He wrote a book that listed hundreds of essential oils and their benefits.

India

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There is a 3,000 year old history of essential oils in India. Vedic literature lists over 300 substances that these people used to promote wellness including cinnamon, ginger, myrrh, and sandalwood.

Rome and Greece

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The Romans were known for using a large amount of essential oils on their bodies, bedding, and clothes. They also used oils for massages and baths. The Greeks started using essential oils around 400-500 B.C. Soldiers would regularly carry ointment of myrrh into battle to support their immune systems. The famous Greek physician Hypocrites spent much of his time researching essential oils and recorded the benefits of more than 300 plants.

Europe

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During the Crusades, a lot of information about essential oils was passed on to the Europeans, and their use soon became widespread. There is a legend about a blend of botanicals used hundreds of years ago in Europe.
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This legend inspired a blend of oils called Thieves from Young Living that is used by people today to help support the immune system.

Biblical References

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Throughout scripture, you can find more than 180 references to essential oils, and how they used them for healing, medicine, food, gifts, and religious rites. Most people will recognize at least two: the Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus. I used to think they were just giving him perfume, but it turns out at the time they considered them extremely precious and used them to support wellness. Another example you might recognize is in John 12, when Mary poured oil on Jesus’ feet and wiped it away with her hair. The oil she used was Spikenard, another essential oil that was widely revered for its ability to support the body. It’s clear through reading scripture that God gave us essential oils as a gift, and that He intended for us to use them to promote wellness.

Why haven’t I heard of them before?

The use of essential oils was actually very widespread in the United States around the time of WWI and WWII, especially in military hospitals. However, during the second half of the 20th century, there were many new amazing inventions being created that helped people maintain wellness, and they started being used instead of essential oils. However, many people today are rediscovering how helpful essential oils can be as a tool to promote overall wellness, and they are becoming more popular than ever!

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