A Brief History Of Fragrance
The historic, mysterious and romantic realms of fragrance have enchanted and captured the imagination of men and women since the beginning of recorded time. The Old Testament refers again and again to perfume, which in those early times usually took the form of incense. No wonder then that the word perfume is derived from the latin
"per" meaning through and "fumum" meaning smoke.
Early religious ceremonies were marked by the burning of aromatic gums and woods as sacrificial offerings to the gods. The Wise Men of the East brought fragrant offerings of frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child.
Egyptian history reveals the use of fragrant ointments and liquid oils in and after bath. Fragrance also played a vital role in Egyptian religious ceremonies. The precious fragrances were preserved in intricately designed ivory and wooden boxes, as well as onyx and glass containers.
Cleopatra, one of the most famous of fragrance worshippers, probably inspired the Greeks and Romans to become sophisticated fragrance devotees. Between courses at banquets, they refreshed themselves with water perfumed with flowers. The Romans furthered the art of perfumery by compounding as many as twenty-seven ingredients in solid and liquid ointments and powders.
The Persians discovered how to extract oils from flowers through distillation, while the Arabs made a cult of perfume making. Their use of exotic ingredients was to play a vital part in the development of fragrance.
From the Crusades, Western Europe came to know these Arabian fragrance developments and exotic ingredients.
The Far East also had a powerful influence in the growth of fragrance. Many still believe fragrance not only enhances personal beauty, but helps to prolong life.
The first modern type of perfume, consisting of essential oils blended with an alcoholic solution, was created at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in the 14th Century.
During the Renaissance, Italy became the centre of fragrance popularity, and when Catherine de Medici married Henry II of France, she brought her love of perfume with her. This was unquestionably the beginning of the eternal love affair France was to have with fragrance.
The famous French cultivation of flowers became an important industry in the South of France during the 18th Century, which continues today. However, with the growth, development and popularity of fragrance, the need for basic ingredients increased. As a result, practically every part of the world now contributes the flowers, grasses, spices, herbs, citrus products, woods and leaves essential to the creation of fragrance.
Inherent in fragrance is the history of all humanity
its development, cultures and refinements. Today, fragrance is an essential in every segment of living, and reflects our culture just as it has from civilization to civilization.
A Brief History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is the art of using the oils of plants, flowers, herbs and trees to promote a sense of well being for mind, body
and spirit. As far back as 18,000 B.C. as seen in the Lascaux caves of France - flowers, plants and their essences have been used for healing,
relaxation and pleasure.
Aromatherapy was a way of life in Ancient Egypt, 3,000 years ago. Herbs and incense were burned in religious rituals to raise
consciousness and promote tranquillity. Essential oils were used in cooking, cosmetics, medication as well as in the tombs of Kings and Queens
to enhance their afterlife.
Aromatherapy came of age when Hippocrates, the Greek Father of Medicine and first to study the effects of essential oils,
concluded that a daily aromatic bath and scented massage would promote good health. The Greeks used aromatic oils widely. Burning bay leaves
at Delphi to induce a trance-like state, they foretold the future.
The ancient Romans used fragrance oils in bathing - an important social ritual. Emperor Nero sprayed his guests with specific
oils to put them in his desired mood. There are references to the use of aromatic oils in the Bible. For example, Mary Magdelene anointed Jesus
with aromatic oils she carried in an urn.
In the 14th century, when bubonic plague wiped out one-third of Europe, physicians wore clothing filled with lavender and
other spices, carried pomanders studded with cloves and hung garlic around their neck to ward off disease. Perfumers were said to have the
highest survival rates, attributed to the healing characteristics of plants and oils.
The Renaissance, as well as the travels of explorers and expanded trade, gave rise to new aromas and increased the demand
for knowledge. As people migrated across Europe, they spread knowledge about the benefits of their native herbs. Many of the royalty at that
time wore perfumes consistent with their moods.
By the end of the 18th century, the use of oils declined with the advent of synthetic drugs although at that point they were
used mostly for the pleasure of the scent. By the beginning of the 20th century, the value of essential oils came to the fore once more when
two French doctors, René Gattefosse and Jean Valnet, discovered their healing properties for both physical and mental disorders - validating
many of the findings of the ancients.
In the 1960s, Marguerite Maury developed personal fragrance complexes specifically for individual patients, thus creating
the science of aromatherapy. She set up the first aromatherapy clinics in Europe. In the
"me" decade of the 1980s, stress was handled with overindulgence, psychotherapy and aerobics. In the 1990s, relief is sought in yoga, organic
food, holistic therapies and, above all, aromatherapy.
Today, aromatherapy is used increasingly to help individuals cope with the stresses of millennial life, as a response to:
- interest in alternative forms of medicine and mood-altering properties;
- awareness of therapeutic benefits, leading to frequent use;
- desire for stress relief/wellness;
- satisfaction with/multiple benefits (smells good/good for you);
- continued desire for natural products.
- Adapted from The Fragrance Foundation