Do you feel like suddenly everyone is talking about essential oils? Are you wondering whether they’re a new thing? In fact, they’re pretty damn old...
A little history
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for health and medicinal purposes. One of the most interesting parts about the history of essential oils is that they seem to have been developed independently by different cultures as they discovered their individual properties. From being used in medicinal treatments to improving wellbeing, essential oils have had numerous uses over hundreds of years. The earliest records of essential oils go back nearly 20,000 years to cave paintings discovered in the Dordogne region of France.
Records show that the Egyptians used essential oils as far back as 4500 BC. The Egyptians were renowned for their use of oils in making perfumes, medicines and incense that were part of their daily routines and old texts show that they developed many resins, spices, aromatic vinegars and other concoctions based on the oils from the plants that grew along the River Nile.
Later on, much of the practices that the Egyptians had developed around oils and aromatics, became a part of Greek, Roman and Jewish culture. Hippocrates, the Greek physician whose influence still informs the medical community, was considered the father of modern medicine. Among other things, he studied and documented the medicinal influence of over 300 plants which formed the basis of his theories on the role of aromatherapy in health and wellbeing.
Across the continents in India, Ayurvedic literature from 2000 BC records Indian doctors administering oils of cinnamon, ginger, myrrh, coriander and sandalwood to their patients. The Vedas, India’s most sacred book, mentions over 700 different herbs and aromatics codifying the uses of perfumes and aromatics for religious and therapeutic purpose.
So how are we harnessing the power of oils now?
As more people discover alternative, or natural, health treatments and plant-based remedies for increasing wellness, the use of essential oils and aromatherapy techniques is rising dramatically.
With the increasing interest in natural beauty and skincare products, with plant-based ingredients replacing the chemicals and synthetics that have been used in beauty and skincare for so long, essential oils play a big part. Ingredients like Lavender, Tea tree and Peppermint have long been used in skincare products but large chemical companies have been able to create synthetic versions which whilst often are cheaper, can be damaging to the environment as well as health in the long-term.
Now, going back to our roots and the remedies that our ancestors used, essential oils have come to replace those synthetics once more. Not only do they deliver the same scents, using essential oils instead of synthetics mean you get all of the additional benefits of the oil – hydration, relaxation, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Why we prefer them
The environment. It is true that we are using natural resources to distill essential oils – the main concern for many is the use of water to grow the crops, but creating the synthetic versions also requires water throughout the processing so the balances almost weigh up here. For us, it is more about the end result, many synthetics in beauty and skincare are damaging to the environment post-use, so when you wash your moisturiser or make up from your face at the end of the day, much of the ingredients make it through the water treatment plants and can pollute waterways and eventually the ocean. And we’ve all heard the story about microbeads and plastics.
Health. Using essential oils on skin has been dubbed as having a clean beauty routine, and by association people feel it is better for skin. However, caution must be taken as using oils directly on the skin at certain levels can cause irritation. On the whole though, the properties of the oils we mentioned before (hydrating, anti-inflammatory etc.) are better for your skin. You are treating in a balanced way rather than adding the temporary fix that synthetic ingredients give.
Keep an eye out on our blog over the next couple of months to learn more about individual oils!