Societies have been distilling plants for beauty, perfume, and medicine for more than 5,000 years. There is an undeniable energy, attraction and healing power in the aromatics of plants. Perfume is power and pure flirtation. I have often said that authentic distillations of essential oils are a way to hold, touch and play with the divine in our very own hands.
These libations have been used since the time of Christ and Cleopatra. They are ancient. Throughout history, sacred herbs and medicines were traded and exchanged along trade routes to create, distill and use in an aroma apothecary. There are documents of perfume production in ancient Egypt, Persia, China, India, and Japan. In fact, speciality pots have been found at 5,500-year-old Sumerian sites which are believed to have been used for primitive extraction of essential oils.
Originally, the Egyptians coined the term perfume from the Latin “per fumum,” meaning through smoke. Smoke, in the form of incense and unguents, douses the recipient in aromas to heal, fortify or evoke erotic excitement.
There’s evidence of cedarwood, frankincense, saffron, myrrh, cardamom, cinnamon, cassia, cypress, and calamus used in Egyptian ritual incense and as embalming agents. When oils are stored in the right conditions, they don’t lose its potency, even after 5000 years. In fact and rather morbidly, in the 17th century ancient Egyptian mummies were sometimes sold and distilled to be used as medicines themselves because even after thousands of years, the mummies were still impregnated with the residue of potent medicinal aromatics.
Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, wrote “a perfumed bath and a scented massage every day is the way to good health.” I have seen a whole body benefit in my clinic when people receive aromatic massage and regularly bathe with essential oils. Immune systems become stronger, stress is reduced and there is a vast improvement in one’s moods and outlook.
Persians came to the forefront of perfume creation around the 10th century by gathering information from Europe, India, and China. At this time, perfume received a gigantic upgrade. Avicenna, a poet and physician, developed and perfected the steam distillation method with the addition of a coiled cooling rod. The same method is used today for the bulk of essential oil distillation. As an added bonus, the leftover water from the steam distillation process is called a Hydrosol and is a staple in cooking and beauty products around the globe.
Moving into the 14th century, Europe was struck down by the plague and essential oils helped tremendously. Frankincense resin was burned to rid the streets of the smell of rotting flesh, give people their last rites, and try to contain the disease. While they didn’t understand microbiology at the time, the aromatic compounds in frankincense helped to detoxify and purify the air somewhat containing the disease.
At that time, a small band of skilled grave robbers used aromatic vinegar made of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary to fortify their health during looting rampages. When finally caught, the grave robbers revealed that they were spice traders who knew herbal secrets and received lighter sentences in exchange for their potent herbal wisdom. Their fortifying blend is still being used today by many aroma houses to cure illness and strengthen immunity.
Personal hygiene took a turn for the worse from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century, because bathing was prohibited by the church except at birth and death. People generously perfumed themselves to negate a lifetime of personal stink and utilize (without their full understanding) the antibacterial, antiseptic qualities inherent to all essential oils.
By the 17th century, perfume was elevated to a high art. Every wealthy woman had their own personal jewelers to create ornate boxes and jars to store their precious liquids. Women were defined by their personal scent. It was their calling card. At that time, perfumed gloves were also fashionable and highly sought after. However, sometimes society ladies angered the wrong person and poisons were mixed with perfumes resulting in their untimely death.
In the 18th century, Louis the XIV’s palace came to be known as “the perfumed court”. King Louis demanded a different perfume for his apartment every day. Throughout the palace, several bowls were placed with flower petals to sweeten the air. Perfume was sprayed on furniture, fans and clothing. Even the water fountains were scented with perfume at Versailles. However, at the end of Louis the XIV’s life, any perfume with the exception of neroli would trigger violent migraines. Even in the beautiful world of perfume, there is too much of a good thing.
Perfume was in high demand across Europe at this time. To keep up, vast aromatic flower fields were planted in Grasse, France, that are still producing quality, potent essential oils today. I get many of my PurFrequency oils directly from France.
Authentic natural perfume sadly fell out of fashion in the 19th century as chemicals were created to produce variations or adulterations of the natural world. The inherent medicinal properties of natural essential oils were mostly lost and a new and very lucrative synthetic fragrance market was born. The power and potency of aromatherapy was diminished for about 100 years. But you can’t keep a good thing down for long.
True aromatherapy was rediscovered in the 1920s by French chemist Gatte-Fosse who, while researching essential oils, burned his hand very badly. Instinctively, he put his hand into a vat of lavender oil. The pain was immediately reduced and he healed without scarring. Gatte-Fosse reinvented modern aromatherapy and laid the groundwork for a renewed interest in natural, aromatic health, and beauty.
People are still discovering innovative ways to extract aromas from plants that were in the past, impossible. The herbal kingdom is rich with medicines and sensual tonics for us to use.
Through trial and error, we’ve found that the blood of plants, the spirit of leaves and the soul of flowers can be used for our beauty, perfume and medicine. Essential oils can be used in every imaginable way.
How do you use essential oils in your daily life? How have you used essential oils to help you heal, beautify or sexify? Please leave your comments below.