Plants and Their Products for Medicinal and Healing Properties
Herbs and aromatic have been used from time immemorial. India is probably the only place in the world where the tradition was never lost. Ayurvedic medicine is probably the oldest, continuous form of medicine practiced anywhere in the world. The Vedas describe the use of aromatic materials such as Sandalwood, Ginger, Myrrh, Cinnamon, Coriander etc. Early Sanskrit literature described the practice of perfumery.
Indian legend and spiritual beliefs are full of perfumery. In order to purge themselves from sin, Hindu worshipers anointed themselves with perfumed oils and incense is burned in the temples to banish evil spirits.
Chinese have recorded use of 2000 herbs & 20 essential oils. Egyptian stories document use of aromatics in all walks of life. Kephi, a well known perfume of the time was composed of 16 different ingredients including myrrh, cinnamon, juniper ,cardamom etc. Bandages removed from embalmed mummy were found to still have traces of myrrh and cedarwood. Greece and Rome were not untouched by use of aromatics & ointments. Marestheus, a Greek physician was one of the first to discover the stimulating or sedative properties of aromatic flowers.
The Greeks made an important contribution to the future study of plant medicine and classifying and indexing the knowledge they gained from the Egyptians. Galen , a Greek physician is one who founded the cold cream the prototype of most of the creams in use today. Hippocrates, who lived 2500 years ago, highly emphasized the use of daily aromatic bath and scented massage to prolong life. Dioscorides wrote DeMateria Medica, an incredible herbal medicine manual. This manual was a standard medical reference work in western medicine for over a thousand years. The spread of Islam in the middle east helped to expand the knowledge of aromatics .
It was Avicenna together with the effort of hundreds of people, who developed methods that refined the process of distillation and made it possible to extract pure essential oils. The use of essential oils expanded into perfumery and cosmetics .Balms , scented waters and fragrant oils etc skin care & medication flourished. During the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century Frankincense & Pine were burnt in the streets. In the 19th century, scientific advances led to the decline of herbal therapy. In the early 20th century the French cosmetic scientist Rene Maurice Gattefosse revived the use of essential oils and coined the term Aromatherapy. There after the list is long .The two Italian doctors Gioanni Gatti and Renato Cayola demonstrated the psycho therapeutic effects of essential oils. Dr Jean Valnet an ex-army surgeon used essential oils to treat the wounds of soldiers as well as specific illness. The book written by him is a classic for aromatherapy practitioners.