We love essential oils like our East Cape mānuka oil, and whether you know it or not, essential oils have been used for thousands of years as effective treatments for a plethora of ailments. Or even just to feel good and smell good!
We constantly gush about the different ways you can use them for natural skincare and other remedies for good reason! But it’s been known for many millennia that they hold powerful healing properties as well.
Throughout history, essential oils have been used extensively in therapeutic and aromatic ways as well as medicinally, dating back as far as 18,000 B.C.E. established by carbon-dating cave paintings from early human life.
Somewhere along the course of our modern history, we lost our connection to nature. Essential oils were for the most part replaced by modern synthetic medicines, non-natural ointments and creams, and anti-bacterial products made with chemicals. But essential oils are making a huge comeback as people have begun to detox their bodies of harsh chemicals and rediscover the enormous health benefits of natural products.
Though we’ve strayed a bit from natural remedies, the last decade or so has seen a huge interest in going natural and essential oils like tea tree oil and manuka oil has exploded in popularity. To get back in touch with our natural side, we are going to travel back in time and revisit the fascinating history of essential oils.
In Ancient Egypt, essential oils were for the Gods
Like we mentioned above, carbon dating can trace the use of essential oils way back in early human history, but the first known recorded uses date back to Ancient Egypt around 4,500 B.C.E. And the ancient Egyptians LOVED their essential oils. So much so that different aromatics and oils were dedicated to a specific deity, and only priests and Pharaohs could use them. Now that shows just how powerful essential oils were considered to be.
Followers would come to pray to a specific deity and anoint the statue in ceremonies with the oil dedicated to that God. Even Pharaohs had specific essential oil blends for use in meditation, relaxation, love, and war.
Essential oils used for medicine in Ancient Greece
Eventually, the wisdom and uses of essential oils were passed on from the Egyptians to the Greeks, and herbs and oils became key ingredients used by Greek city-states to treat physical and mental illness, injuries, and stress. You may have heard of the world’s most famous physician and someone who is considered to be the “father of medicine” -- Hippocrates.
Hippocrates was all about essential oils, and one of the first people to recognise that sickness wasn’t a curse from the Gods but could be treated with natural remedies. He also believed that treating stress with aromatics and daily massages with essential oils could lead to a healthier life. In fact, the Greeks were big on natural and holistic healing practices and even offered free healthcare at their healing centers like Epidavros.
Treatment in healing centers like these would first address ailments of the body and mind by de-stressing visitors with plays, relaxation and massages, hotsprings, and herbal and essential oil remedies. They were onto something -- nowadays we are recognizing stress and harsh chemicals in products to be extremely detrimental to our wellbeing.
Ancient Romans loved aromatherapy
Of course you’ve heard of the famous Roman bath houses built across the vast Roman empire. Afterall, they were a bit obsessed with cleanliness in that sense compared to many other empires at the time, and bathing multiple times was a daily ritual. But you may not know that essential oils and aromatherapy were extremely popular for the Romans and their people. They would add oils in the steaming Roman bathhouses to help with relaxation, cleanliness, and breathing. This would also make general hygiene higher and risk of disease lower given the antibacterial properties of many essential oils, even if they didn’t have the science behind it like we do now. Romans loved scents and would add aromatic oils to their hair and skin to keep it healthy and smelling fresh, and even on household walls to make their homes smell good.
Treatments with natural ingredients and essential oils are now again being seen as powerful tools to use for a growing array of health benefits, but these benefits were always there.
Essential oils save the stench
With the fall of the Roman Empire came the fall of bathing and the teachings of Hippocrates and Ancient Egypt, and with that came the rise of seriously stinky populations. You see, the Catholic church at the time deemed bathing to be a sin, so nobody washed themselves for the most part. You can imagine how crowded cities back then must have smelled, let alone gatherings inside of buildings. Woowee. Instead of washing, people would use herbs and natural oils on their body to mask the smell. Little did they know, they were probably saving their skin (figuratively and literally) because the essential oils would kill off bacteria on their otherwise unwashed and dirty bodies where bad bacteria could thrive. Though it was used to help the smell, the uses of essential oils in healing mostly faded away.
Ayurvedic uses across India
Ayurvedic practices across India promote a healthy lifestyle using meditation, healthy eating, and you guessed it -- essential oils. They are key parts of the Ayurvedic practices and natural medicines and is a movement that is growing in popularity to this day with the rise of yoga and clean living.
The rebirth of essential oils
Essential oils never died off completely, but the application of it faded slightly into obscurity. The use of herbs and essential oils were utilised by small dedicated groups throughout history after the Dark Ages, but it wouldn’t really take hold again until the 21st century.
Sure, there was an uptick of use in the Renaissance era for aromatics and even found use treating Leprosy, and the Hippy culture of the 60s and 70s brought on a surge in natural remedies (hemp seed oil, we’re looking at you).
Over the last few decades, essential oils like tea tree oil have been studied extensively and found to have incredibly powerful antibacterial properties and are main ingredients in natural hair and skincare products. Along with that, the rising interest around the world to seek more eco-friendly and natural products to replace destructive chemical processes and products has driven the renewed realisation of the healing power of these oils and blends.
Enter mānuka oil, one of the world’s most powerful essential oils
Mānuka, a native myrtle of New Zealand, has been used for hundreds of years by Māori healers in many forms like teas, aromatherapy, and to help heal wounds. Mānuka honey has become a staple in Kiwi households to treat all sorts of issues like burns and sore throats, but it’s only in the past few decades has the plant been distilled. When it is distilled, it becomes 1,000 times more powerful than mānuka honey, and is packed with antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial benefits among others.
In that short period of time, East Cape mānuka oil has emerged as an essential oil with some of the highest amounts of antibacterial properties and is even 20-30 times more powerful than tea tree oil which is used worldwide. Because of the high antibacterial efficiency, it has been proven to kill off even the worst kinds of gram-positive bacterias from clinical infections.
This specific mānuka plant, grown and harvested in the East Cape region of New Zealand, gains its strength from the high triketone compounds. This makes it extremely versatile as a skincare product and for natural household cleaning and so much more. With thousands of years of historical proof of the health benefits of essential oils, mānuka oil is helping lead the way to a more natural and healthier world.
Here are some fun facts about essential oils:
- Your sense of smell is the first sense you develop when you are born
- The mānuka plant yields only 1% of oil weight of the branches ratio
- It has been shown that pleasant scents can provide a positive mood boost up to 40%
- In the 1950s essential oils began being used in massage therapy, though Hippocrates was said to have used them for massages thousands of years ago
- Aromatherapy was coined as a phrase in the 20th century
- Only 1% of the world’s plant population produces essential oils
- Our sense of smell in spring isn’t amplified by the blooming flowers but the added moisture in the air
- Proof of herb-infused oils and creams were found in ancient Egyptian tombs
- During the bubonic plague, essential oils were used across India to successfully replace ineffective antibiotics
Going more natural is better for your body and the planet, and the history of essential oils proves its place as one of nature’s most incredible healing gifts.