Since as far back as we can remember, essential oils have been used for their ancient healing properties, with many cultures having a deep awareness of their magical properties to cure the body, enhance the mind and repel evil spirits and entities. Despite the fact that the therapeutic benefits of plants have been known for millenia, it is really only in the last twenty years that we have seen a tremendous resurgence of interest in our ability to understand and harness the benefits of essential oils yielded from plants.
While plant constituents are found in an abundance of modern-day medicine, there is a an overwhelming interest in using the plants in their natural forms, and that’s exactly what Aromatherapy does. By capturing the essence of the plant in its most natural form, their beautiful healing and mood altering characteristics can be unleashed to improve the mind, body and spirit.
Essential oils have in fact accompanied us from the earliest of times since history was recorded to honour, seduce or delight the rich and the powerful. The use of oils is documented in some of the earliest Chinese writings, numerous excavations of artefacts from the Greeks, Romans and the Persians which show that they all embraced the power of the mysterious, pungent and mood altering plant essences.
In Ancient Egypt, papyrus manuscripts indicate that during the reign of Khufu (the Great Pyramid builder) c2700BC, temple incense and other perfumes, herbs and oils were used in healing salves. The beautiful Egyptian murals that line the walls of the Temples dotted down the Nile indicate that not only were the royal corpses preserved for the afterlife with fragrant, antiseptic and antibacterial properties, their bandages were steeped in oil essence of frankincense, myrrh, clove, cinnamon, cedarwood, cypress and spikenard as well as numerous other oils and spices for their healing properties.
But most important of all was that the oils were not just used in death! They were also used in every day life for the members of the Royal Court. Murals depicting lively dancers and musicians wearing bees wax cones on their heads that would eventually melt in the Egyptian heat and permeate their wigs and their skin. Others show sacred work where distillers were pressing the oils using amphoras created for that purpose.
One of the most important fragrances of the time was Kyphi which means ‘welcome to the Gods’ burned in the sun god Ra’s honour, daily at sunset. It comprised over 16 different essences and was used as an aid for sleeping, a dream enhancer, a stress relaxant and a treatment for sorrow and breathing difficulties.
I remember from a past life, as a queen and Priestess, a floor knee deep in roses to lure my lover as I believed that when the petals were crushed underfoot the the devastating aphrodisiac properties of the oil would be unleashed helping me capture my lover’s love and commitment. I remember the rooms that the oils were prepared in, many of the temples had separate rooms for the preparation of sweet smelling offerings to the Gods. Edfu temple has detailed formulas describing the many blends that the Pharoah and his family required and the statues of the Gods were covered in precious oils that enhanced the body, the mind and the spirit.
At Delphi, the Ancient Priestesses used to burn bay leaves to ward off evil and allow them to channel. Sadly, Socrates took a dim view of aromatics and was said to state that the widespread use of fragrant oils blurred the distinction between slaves and Royalty because it covered up the smell of their sweat!
The ancient Egyptians used essential oils in their daily lives to maintain health, smell sweet, to lift emotions, and as an offering to the Gods. They did not distinguish between essential oils being used for cosmetic (perfumes), medicinal or spiritual purposes. When someone became ill, they went to a priest/ess who recommended and administered the correct essential oil and/or internal remedy. It was understood that one affected the other; using a spiritual or emotional remedy could heal physical problems, and visa versa.
The Egyptians so highly revered the use of essential oils that the art of drawing essential oils from plants was a highly kept secret. In 1922, when King Tut’s tomb was opened, they discovered 350 litres of essential oils in alabaster jars. Plant waxes had solidified the jar’s openings, leaving the oils in an impeccable condition.
It is unfortunate that the bulk of the knowledge of preparing and healing with essential oils was lost soon after the Romans conquered Egypt. Archeology show that it was not until 1,000 years later that this art was rediscovered. However, the fact that Essential Oil Therapy was lost for 1,000 years does not mean other forms of Essential Oil Therapy were not used. The unguentarii (perfumers) apparently stayed busy making ladysmata (solid unguents), stymmata (scented oils), and dispasmata (perfumed powders).
Today I have at my disposal a number of essential oils from ancient times I wouldn’t be without: Frankincense, Jasmine, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Rose, Patchouli, Clary Sage, and Geranium are just a few of my favourites. They uplift me, inspire me, balance and me ground me with Mother Earth and open a deep connection to Source.
If you’d like to find out how to start your own collection of beautiful essential oils. Let me know by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org