History of Aroma
Aromatic oils in ancient civilizations were very different from the wide range of highly refined oils captured by modern methods of distillation. But the ancients are regarded as the true founders of aromatherapy.
According to archaeologists our predecessors had no knowledge of distillation. Most of their oils were prepared by placing aromatic plant material in vegetable oils or animal fats. These mixtures were left in the sun to infuse into the oils and were used for ceremonies and for their healing powers.
Greeks would decorate their heads with fragrant flowers, a form of psycho-aromatherapy. The perfumes and healing balms so popular with the Greeks soon became very fashionable in Rome. The Romans were the world's greatest bathers and enjoyed warm spa waters and aromatherapy massages.
Herbal medicines in China were used in conjunction with acupuncture and massage to treat a myriad of ailments. They were also involved with the quest for immortality through the practice of alchemy.
A Persian physician named Avicenna is credited with having perfected the art of distillation in the eleventh century AD. He was so advanced in his method that his apparatus did not change in 900 years. He also advocated massage, traction and a detoxifying all-fruit diet as part of his healing regime.
The art of aromatherapy arrived in Europe as a result of the crusades and with it came the art of distillation. Wealthy lords were able to distill essential oils for medicines and perfumes.
The Italian doctors Gatti and Cajola (circa. 1920) demonstrated the psychotherapeutic effect of smelling essential oils. They in a rudimentary way they concluded that "the sense of smell has by reflex action an enormous influence on the function of the central nervous system".
In the late 20th century professor Paolo Rovesti soaked cotton balls in essences and passed them to his patients. The aroma's, he said, helped them to evoke and release suppressed memories and emotions that were having detrimental effect on their psyche. Aromatherapy and essential oils have been with us for a long time and have provided effect healing powers on the mind, body and spirit for generations.