The History of Essential Oils

what are essential oils

Essential oils may seem like a new health trend, especially with major retailers carrying varieties of fragrances labeled as “essential oils.” The common misconception that essential oils are a new health fad is so far from the truth! The use of plant botanicals made from herbs, grasses, trees, and flowers dates back all the way to the ancient world! I use the term plant botanicals as a true essential oil is steam distilled and humans weren’t able to do that until around 1000AD, as you’ll see from the history below.


Plant matter was macerated and put in to fats and oils which have been enhancing lives for thousands of years in many different cultures, offering a variety of benefits—from cosmetic and dietary purposes to spiritual and religious uses. Oils were used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Europeans, and Chinese. In fact, oils are mentioned in many historical texts and are well documented for their uses and benefits in ancient times. Young Living has always been at the forefront of bringing this ancient tradition to modern times and has introduced millions to life-changing emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness.

This post is packed with the historical facts you need to drop a world of knowledge on the next person who suggests that your obsession with the oils you love is just a passing fad.

A quick history lesson

• 3500 BC: First known distillation apparatus developed in Tepe Gawra, located in modern-day northwest Iraq.

• 3000 BC: Legendary ruler Shen Nung publishes a groundbreaking book containing information on more than 300 botanicals and their uses.

• 1470 BC: Queen Hatshepsut, Egyptian ruler, undertakes an expedition to bring back riches from the land of Punt. The greatest of the treasures to return being a grove of myrrh trees.

• 1330 BC: King Tutankhamun is buried with alabaster jars designed to hold the precious essential oils the boy king would need in the afterlife.

• 345 BC: Alexander the Great of Macedonia burned incense during his youth, even being berated by his tutor for his extravagant use of the incense.

• 0 AD: According to the Bible in Israel, wise men visit the Christ child and bring the most precious of gifts, including frankincense and myrrh.

• 100 AD: Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, writes his natural history describing the use of herbs and essential oils.

• 1000 AD: Physician Avicenna steam distills floral essential oils in Persia, such as rose essence, laying the groundwork of aromatherapy.

• 1930: Dr. Rene-Maurice Gattefossé beings his pioneering research on the therapeutic properties of essential oils, leading to the publication of his aromatherapy book.

• 1980: In France, Dr. Jean-Claude Lapraz conducts indepth research on the beneficial properties of essential oils and their component parts.

• 1985: D. Gary Young begins researching essential oils, which eventually leads to the founding of Young Living. D. Gary Young was a true pioneer in the essential oil industry. He started Young Living over 24 years ago because he experienced the life-changing benefits of oils firsthand. From that moment on, he made it his mission to make essential oils more easily accessible and get them into the hands of people who need them most. Young Living Essential Oils brought essential oils to the forefront of the wellness industry, and they have been the world leader ever since!

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