Essential oil and scent history is really the history of plants and herbal medicine, since they are a part of it.
All ancient cultures used aromatic substances and herbs for cooking, healing, scenting and praying. The earliest written herbal text is the “Pen Tsao” (Great Herbal – still in print) which was compiled by Shen Nung, an emperor, during the time of 1 000 to 700 B.C. In this work is listed more than 350 medicinal plants and remedies. Another great and ancient work of plants and medicine is the “Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine” also still in print. Acupuncture was already used at this time and has since then spread all over the world, growing in popularity.
Aromatic substances also played an important role in the lives of the Sumerians who lived along the rivers of Eufrat and Tigris ca 4 000 B.C. They left inscriptions showing the use of herbs for healing. The Babylonians and Assyrians left inscriptions of their laws among which there are instructions for the use of plants and spices in medicine. In Persia a clay-vessel was found that is believed to be a crude form of distillation-apparatus. It is dated to 2 500 B.C. Similar vessels are still used in the area for distillation purposes.
In India the medicine of Ayur Veda has existed in written form since 1 000 B.C. Ayur Veda has become an increasingly popular form of alternative medicine and can today be found all over the world.
In ancient Rome and Greece medicine developed into a science. Hippocrates (468-377 B.C), known as the father of medicine compiled scripts known as “Corpus Hippocraticum”. Pedanius Dioscorides wrote the classic “De Materia Medica” in year 60 A.D. This work became the standard basic for medicine during the next 1 500 years. During this time the practice of medicine slowly started to divide into 2 routes;
- Empirical; Seeing the body and mind as a whole, interacting unit. Knowledge comes from experience and studies.
- Scientific; Seeing the body as a machine that can be repaired. Knowledge comes from studying parts in isolation.