Aromatherapy has become very mainstream, especially recently. And, along with that, are many calling it “alternative” or “non-traditional” treatment or medicine. In the sense that what we think of as “traditional” or “modern” treatment or medicine I guess it could be said that aromatherapy, herbs, essential oils, and the like are “alternative,” but have you ever thought that maybe these forms of medicine aren’t so non-traditional?
Where did our “traditional” or “modern” medical treatments actually come from? Take just a little stroll with me through time and you’ll get a glimpse of amazing knowledge.
The history of aromatherapy as we know it today dates as far back as 10,000 years before Christ. Our ancestors from 10,000-5,000 BC would burn aromatic herbs, barks, and plants to drive out the evil spirits from those people who were sick. During this time, local fragrant trees, plants, and herbs were used because the trade market had not developed.
In 2,697 BC, the Chinese “Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine” was written, and it remains the oldest surviving medical book in China. This book contains information on over 300 plants and their medicinal properties.
In 2,650-2,575 BC the Egyptians developed the process of embalming and mummification as they searched for immortality. Frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, cedarwood, juniper berry and spikenard are all known to have been used at some stage to preserve the bodies of their royalty in preparation of the after-life. The most sought after materials were frankincense and myrrh, and because during those early trading years demand outstripped supply they had a value equal to that of gems and precious metals.
From 1,539-657 BC the Egyptians continued to perfect their use of aromatics in incense, medicine, cosmetics, and finally perfumes.
In 1200 BC, the earliest known Greek physician, Asclepius, practiced combining the use of herbs and surgery. He was defined as the god of healing in Greek mythology.
Known as the father of medicine, Hippocrates (460-377 BC) was the first physician to dismiss the Egyptian belief that illness was caused by supernatural forces. Instead, he believed the doctor should try to discover natural explanations for disease by observing the patient carefully, and make a judgment only after consideration of the symptoms. Hippocrates considered the entire body a single organism and believed that surgery should only be used as a last resort. His treatments would typically employ mild physio-therapies, baths, massage with infusions, or the internal use of herbs. It is said that Hippocrates studied and documented over 200 different herbs during his lifetime. His approach differed greatly from that of the Egyptians who had a prescribed method of treating any given disease. It is interesting to note that both methodologies are still practiced today, more than 2,000 years later.
Theophrastus (372-287 BC) was a Greek philosopher and student of Aristotle. He investigated everything about plants and even how scents affected the emotions.
Known as the Father of Pharmacology, Dioscorides (70-80 AD) was a Greek military physician who studied plants in Greece, Germany, Italy, and Spain. He described the plant’s habitat, how they should be prepared and stored, and full accounts of their healing properties. He published comprehensive 5 volume work called De Materia Medica. This book became the most influential botanical book in history and contained 1000 different botanical medications, plus descriptions and illustrations of approximately 600 different plants and aromatics.
Claudius Galen (129-199 AD) treated the wounds of Roman gladiators with medicinal herbs, and it is said that not a single gladiator died of battle wounds while under his care. His writings described the plant, its geographical location, and medicinal uses. He also formulated plant remedies for a wide range of ailments and is credited with the invention of the first cosmetic cold cream containing beeswax, olive oil, rose petals, and water.
How do you feel our bodies will be if we take our medical treatments back to the simple, yet effective, ways of our ancestors with the use of plants, herbs, trees, and essential oils? Combine that with good, solid nutrition, some exercise, and support mechanisms for rest and stress management, and I feel we have an equation for great health, don’t you?
I am excited to help you on your journey!
Have an Abundantly Healthy day, and, until next time …
Dr. Cori Campbell, Physical Therapist, Holistic Wellness Coach