Essential Oils History 101

From Queen Cleopatra’s personal spa to our nightly routines, essential oils have been...well...essential in people’s lives for thousands of years. So today, we decided to take a look back. Way back, to the beginning of essential oils’ rich history.

We love how the oils we use on a daily basis have been used by people from nearly every major ancient culture. They must have been on to something, huh? Consider this your Essential Oils History 101 crash course. Buckle up, we have human history to cover.  

Oil Like an Egyptian

 Queen Cleopatra used plant-based oils and pastes in her famous beauty spa. 

Queen Cleopatra used plant-based oils and pastes in her famous beauty spa. 

Recorded essential oil history starts with the Egyptians. As a world power for almost 30 centuries, their love of oils was diffused around the world to cultures like the Jews, Greeks and Romans. Want to oil like an Egyptian? Here are a few ways they used oils and plant-based products in their culture.

  • Beauty: Famous for her radiant skin, Queen Cleopatra opened the world’s first spa. She extensively used...you guessed it...essential oils.
  • Burial: The items that Egyptians chose to bury with their Pharaohs gives us insight into what they treasured. It’s no surprise that King Tut was buried with 350 liters of essential oils!
  • Worship: The oils were considered sacred and at height of Egyptian power only priests were allowed to use them. In fact, each deity had a dedicated oil.
  • Power: Pharaohs also had blends developed for every aspect of their rule, from love and war to mediation.  

The Wild East

 "The Yellow Emperor's Book of Internal Medicine" is still used by eastern medicine practitioners today! 

"The Yellow Emperor's Book of Internal Medicine" is still used by eastern medicine practitioners today! 

Essential oils were also valued in eastern cultures like China, India and Persia.

  • China: Essential oils were first recorded in the east between 2697-2597 BC, during the legendary Yellow Emperor’s reign. His book “The Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine” covers essential oil use and is still a classic resource of modern eastern medicine practitioners.
  • India: Ayurvedic medicine has a 3000 year history with essential oils for health and spiritual purposes. The literature contains over 700 substances including some of our favorites: Cinnamon, Ginger, Myrrh and Sandalwood.
  • Persia: A prolific researcher on plants and their effect on humans, Avicenne was the first person to record his distillation methods in 980 BC. They are still in use today!

Fit for a King

 We wrote about the oils that were fit for a king this Christmas, check it out!

We wrote about the oils that were fit for a king this Christmas, check it out!

Take a look at which oils were presented to Jesus at his birth.

Dark Times

 What does Thieves Essential Oil Blend have to do with the Black Plague? Check out one of our top posts to find out! 

What does Thieves Essential Oil Blend have to do with the Black Plague? Check out one of our top posts to find out! 

The Dark Ages were a dark time for humanity and essential oils. Holistic healing and baths (yes, really) were prohibited by the church. However some essential oil tradition continued as people leaned on aromatic blends to counterbalance the church’s anti-bathing stance. As a bonus, this practice actually supported the user's immune system.

The Dark Ages and Bubonic Plague also brought us Thieves blend! Read how the Black Plague set the stage for one of our most beloved oil blends.

French Connection

 The French, including chemist Rene Gattefosse, developed many of our modern Essential Oil techniques. 

The French, including chemist Rene Gattefosse, developed many of our modern Essential Oil techniques. 

Modern Essential Oils study started in France. French chemist Rene Gattefosse coined the term “aromatherapy” in 1937 after observing lavender’s skin-boosting results. Other essential oil experts followed: Dr. Jean Valet who used Essential Oils to help injured WWII soldiers and Marguerite Maury who pioneered The Raindrop massage technique. Thanks to Robert Tisserand, much of France’s aromatherapy knowledge has been translated to English for us to learn from today.  


Start Your History Today!

If you’re ready to start your own personal history with Essential Oils, contact us today! We’d love to team with you as you journey toward wellness, purpose and abundance.