Sniffing out the Origins of Herbal, Floweral and Essential Oil Treatments
Today we call it "aromatherapy" and say we are "getting back to nature," but herbs, spices, citrus, and various flora have been used to treat mental, medical and skin conditions for centuries. In fact, by comparison, man really just recently strayed from this God-given form of medicine, as modernization took over, and civilization grew into high-rise, concrete jungles. If you are my age and you ask your Grandmother what kind of medicine she took as a child, you might be surprised at her answer. Had civilization not leaped into the industrial revolution, you and I would have been taught the healing properties of herbs and flowers, just as naturally as we were taught to speak. The knowledge use to be passed down from generation to generation, but medicine and skin care, just like the evening meal, has moved from the fields and gardens, to the dollar menu at the drive through.
Most herbs have stories and myths that date back several hundred, if not thousands, of years. In deed, most herbs and many flowers (that essential oils are made from) have the roots of their origins in Greek and/or Roman mythology. This, alone is proof (enough) of their longevity and historical value.
Perhaps one of the longest known, if not best known floral treatment, is the rose. "Rosa" comes from the Greek, meaning red. The ancient rose is generally thought to have been crimson (red). Mythology has it that the rose sprung from the blood of Adonis (some say Venus), which is why it was crimson. Rose distilleries are documented to have existed as early as 1612, in Shiraz, a part of Persia. Did you know that it takes 10,000 pounds of rose petals to produce one pound of rose oil? No wonder they invented a mechanical way to cultivate it!
Here are some other tidbits on herbs and/or flowers;
-The Egyptians used sandalwood to embalm, in medicine, and as aromatherapy in religious rituals. In the 1800's the French used it to treat chronic bronchitis and urinary problems.
-Cleopatra was famous for bathing herself in milk and herbs to moisturize and smooth her skin. -Roman soldiers bathed in thyme filled tubs, as the herb was thought to inspire bravery.
-During the middle ages, thyme sprigs were woven into the scarves of the Knights that were going off to battle to inspire their bravery.
-Lavender was used by the Emperors of ancient Rome and Greece to scent their hair, body, bed and clothing. It was an herb of royalty. When the insect repellent properties were noted is not clearly defined, but the French have heavily cultivated lavender for many years, and are largely credited for promoting its many uses, if not developing them. Lavender is the, or one of the widest known, and most used, herb and essential oil. Lavender has a wide range of use and will have its own dedicated page on this blog in the near future.
Although I could fill pages upon pages relating information about mythological origins of essential oils and various herbs, don't worry, I am stopping! I'll close by telling you that there are over 300 known essential oils in the world. Each one has a whole list of properties that it possesses, however it is said that you can take (just) a certain ten of these EO's, and you will be able to create a "basic survival kit" which will sooth ailments from the common cold to heart palpitations. These ten are, purportedly, all your Great Grandmother, or the local Doctor, ever needed to treat anything that might have befell a family.
Next post, more recipes, then on everything you never thought you'd need to know about moisturizers.