From Ancient Times to Now: The History of Essential Oils

From Ancient Times to Modern Day The History of Essential Oils and Their Uses - Red matt with prayer beads and a small bottle of essential oil with a cork stopper

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As someone who loves natural remedies, I am curious about essential oils. So, naturally, the history of essential oils is a great topic! In this article, I will explore the history, their chemical composition, popular uses, and the science behind them. I will also delve into aromatherapy and whether it actually works. Finally, I will discuss the top essential oils and how to use them safely.

Introduction to Essential Oils

To begin with our history of essential oils, first, they are highly concentrated liquid plant extracts that are obtained through a process known as distillation. They are usually extracted from leaves, flowers, bark, roots, and other parts of plants. They have been used for centuries for their therapeutic and medicinal benefits. In addition, they are often used in aromatherapy, which is the practice of using them to promote physical and emotional well-being. So, they aren’t actually “oils” but that’s the best western phrase that exists to describe them. However, they are often combined with oils for their application.

History of Essential Oils

The use of essential oils dates back to ancient times. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used them for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. In fact, it was the Egyptians who are credited with discovering the process of distillation. They used essential oils in their embalming practices and as perfumes.

During the Middle Ages, they were used extensively in Europe. They were used to treat various ailments, and some were even believed to have magical properties! Interestingly, in the 16th century, Paracelsus, a Swiss physician, wrote extensively about the healing properties of essential oils.

The Production and Extraction Process

The history of essential oils is not complete without knowing the extraction process. Interestingly, the extraction includes a process called distillation. The plant material is placed in a still, and steam is passed through it. Then, the steam causes the essential oil to evaporate, and it is then condensed into a liquid. Finally, the liquid is then collected and bottled.

There are other methods of extracting them, such as cold pressing and solvent extraction. Cold pressing is typically used for citrus oils, while solvent extraction is used for more fragile plant materials.

Chemical Composition

Essential oils are made up of a complex mixture of chemical compounds. They contain volatile organic compounds, which are responsible for their characteristic odor and flavor. Some of the most common chemical compounds found in essential oils include terpenes, phenols, and aldehydes.

The chemical composition can vary depending on the plant species, the part of the plant used, the time of year the plant was harvested, and the extraction method used.

Top Essential Oils and Their Benefits

Essential oils have a wide range of uses. They are used in cosmetics, perfumes, and cleaning products. They are also used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve mood. Although modern research is scarce, the history of essential oils and their uses confirms their effectiveness through the ages. Some of the most popular essential oils and their uses are listed below for your convenience. Also, you may click through the links to get more in depth information about them.

Again, the history of essential oils involves many different types, each with its own unique set of benefits. Here are some of the most popular essential oils and their benefits:


Lavender relieves tension, enhances blood circulation, improves respiratory issues. Additionally, it is also popular for the disinfection of the scalp and skin and many use it to enhance hair growth.


Anxiety characterizes by unrelenting worry, anticipation, and tension. Depression characterizes by low energy, crying, dark emotions, and other unpleasant feelings. I personally use peppermint essential oil to experience a calmness that allows me to relax and have a nicer view of the world around me. This means relief of sadness, fear, and therefore, anxiety.


During World War I, the Allies used eucalyptus essential oil to help fight meningitis. The essential oil was also a key remedy during the 1918 pandemic, providing military units running low on medical supplies with a helpful alternative.

Today, eucalyptus oils are most commonly used to help alleviate respiratory issues, as well as a remedy for burns, cuts and abrasions, ulcers, stress, and headaches.

Tea Tree

Tea tree oil is quite versatile, it is used to relieve cough and cold. It has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties that help in preventing infecting and stimulating the immune system. It is a natural product for your hygiene, whether it is a purifying soap, a hand wash, or skin clearing mattifying toner it provides a chemical-free way to take care of yourself and disinfect your skin, hair, and nails.


This essential oil has been used for centuries to alleviate a wide range of health issues, from boosting immunity to reducing stress and anxiety. Lemon essential oil is extracted from the peel of fresh lemons, and it contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can help improve overall health and wellbeing.


Not surprisingly, this ancient and lavish essential oil is also known as the king of oils. But, the benefits don’t stop with high acclaim. Rather, frankincense supports healthy cellular function when you use it internally. The true beauty of frankincense for people like myself with anxiety issues is that it promotes feelings of peace, relaxation, satisfaction, and overall wellness when you inhale, ingest, use topically, or diffuse it.


From skin and hair care to respiratory and digestive health, this essential oil has countless benefits. It is a natural remedy for stress, anxiety, and depression, and it can also help boost memory and concentration. If you are looking for a natural way to improve your overall health and well-being, then rosemary oil might be just what you need.


With its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antibacterial properties, chamomile is also effective in treating a range of health conditions, including digestive problems, menstrual cramps, and skin irritations. This herb is also rich in antioxidants and other essential nutrients that help boost the immune system and promote overall well-being. From its soothing effects on the mind and body to its ability to improve skin health, there are many reasons why chamomile is a popular natural remedy.

The Science Behind Them

The science behind essential oils is still being studied. While there is some evidence to suggest that certain essential oils have therapeutic properties, more research is needed.

One study found that lavender essential oil can help reduce anxiety in patients undergoing open-heart surgery. Another study found that inhaling peppermint essential oil can help reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients.

However, it is important to note that they are not all created equal. Some essential oils may be adulterated or diluted, which can affect their effectiveness. Therefore, it is important to purchase them from a reputable source.

Aromatherapy – What is it and Does it Work?

Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils to promote physical and emotional well-being. It is believed that the aroma can stimulate the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions.

While there is some evidence to suggest that aromatherapy is effective in treating certain conditions, such as anxiety and depression, more research is needed.

It is important to note that aromatherapy should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. If you are experiencing a medical condition, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional.

How to Use Essential Oils Safely

Essential oils are highly concentrated and should be used with caution. Here are some tips for using essential oils safely:

  • Always dilute essential oils before using them on the skin
  • Do a patch test before using a new essential oil to check for any allergic reactions
  • Do not ingest essential oils unless under the guidance of a healthcare professional
  • Keep essential oils out of the reach of children and pets
  • Store essential oils in a cool, dry place away from sunlight

➳ How to perform a patch test on your skin.


➳ How to apply essentials oils topically.


The Future of Essential Oils

Now we know more about the history of essential oils being used for centuries for their therapeutic and medicinal benefits. While more research is needed to fully understand the science behind essential oils and aromatherapy, there is evidence to suggest that they can be effective in treating certain conditions.

As interest in natural remedies continues to grow, it is likely that essential oils will continue to be used for their various benefits. However, it is important to use them safely and to purchase them from a reputable source.

Whether you are using essential oils to promote relaxation or to improve your overall well-being, it is important to do so with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

So, start exploring the world of essential oils today and experience the benefits for yourself!


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Susan Daniels

Susan Daniels

As someone who is on my own journey of healing, I know how important it is to seek out guidance and understanding. This website is for just that – an inclusive resource for anyone, regardless of their background, who wants to embark on a lifestyle journey of healing and personal growth.

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