History of Essential Oils
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!
Essential Oils in Egypt
We know there was very widespread use of oils in Ancient Egypt, because many hieroglyphics have been found describing various methods for supporting wellness 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 them for promoting wellness, religious purposes, cosmetics, and embalming mummies. It’s clear that even Pharaohs considered oils “essential” because they would store large quantities of it in their tombs to save for the afterlife. The evidence they found in King Tut’s tomb is my favorite example!
Essential Oils in China
Essential oils have been used in India for therapuetic and religious purposes for thousands of years. Some of the oldest writings that have been found are from 2000 BC, and they record doctors administering oils like cinnamon, spikenard, ginger, myrhh, and coriander to their patients. India’s most sacred book, the Vedas, records over 700 herbs and aromatics to be used for promoting wellness!
Essential Oils in Rome and Greece
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.
Essential Oils in Europe
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!
At this point you might be asking yourself, if essential oils have been used all over the globe for thousands of years, why haven’t I heard of them? That was certainly my first thought after I learned all of this!
But the answer is very simple! The use of essential oils was actually pretty 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 many new ways to promote wellness were prevented, and these replaced the use of essential oils. However, many people today are rediscovering how helpful essential oils can be, and are starting to use both old and new methods!