For nearly 6,000 years essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes. A number of ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used them for cosmetics and perfumes as well as for rituals and spiritual reasons. Oils are documented by the Greek physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides in the first century in his five-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine, De Materia Medica.
Fast forward to the early 1900s, when French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse burned his hand and treated it with lavender oil. He then started to analyze the chemical properties of essential oils and how they could be used to treat various conditions. It is commonly understood that Gattefosse founded the science of aromatherapy in 1928. Shortly after, massage therapists, beauticians, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other health care professionals started to use aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy uses the essential oils and other aromatic compounds of plants for the purposes of healing. The plant materials and oils can be massaged into the skin or inhaled. Each essential oil contains concentrated extracts taken from the roots, leaves, or blossoms of plants and therefore has its own mix of active ingredients, determining unique healing faculties.