Aromatherapy, which involves the use of essential oils to treat various ailments, has been used by healers for thousands of years. Although its origins are difficult to trace, the use of aromatherapy goes back at least 4,000 years, possibly beginning with the ancient Egyptians, who were known to have used aromatic botanicals in many different ways. The Egyptians used a number of herbs and spices for soothing massage, medicine, cosmetics, and even in their embalming practices.
Centuries later, it was Hippocrates who may have been the first high-profile advocate of aromatherapy. More than 2,000 years ago, the creator of the physician's creed that bears his name was an outspoken believer in the benefits of aromatic massage for both physical and emotional well-being.
In the 10th century, the Arabs invented a process of distillation that allowed for more efficient extraction of the essential oils from plants, and for centuries, cultures from every part of the globe have inhaled aromas, drunk potions, and worn aromatic amulets as healing aids and to protect them from harm.
By extracting the essential oils from plants and herbs, aromatherapy has been, and continues to be, used to address a wide range of physical and emotional ailments, from headaches to herpes, from dry skin to acne, and from arthritis to asthma.
In modern times, France and England have led the attempt to reintroduce many ancient remedies to the world in the early 1900s, and to help aromatherapy gain greater acceptance in the traditional medical community. France still leads the world in rediscovering modern uses for ancient remedies, and many French doctors routinely prescribe aromatic remedies for their patients. That practice is reinforced by the fact that French pharmacies stock a wide variety of essential oils, and insurance companies are willing to pay for treatments involving ancient healing methods.
America currently lags behind the French and English in the use of aromatic medicine, but as more and more people experience the healing properties of aromatherapy, its use will continue to gain popularity in the United States.