Ancient Tales: The History of Aromatherapy


At the same time that the Egyptians were using aromatics, the ancient Chinese were also aware of their benefits.  The use of five thousand different herbs, spices and animal and mineral substances originated in China.  Some of the important aromatherapy oils for which we have China to thank are cassia, star anise, angelica, camphor, musk and ginger.  Citrus trees also had their origins in China.  In the 12th century, Chang Shih-nan described placing orange blossoms in a burner and heating them until “drops of liquid collected like sweat.”  The distillate was poured over agarwood and kept in a porcelain jar to produce a fragrance of extraordinary elegance.

Chinese texts dating from as early as 3,000 BC mention Shi-Che, the Chinese goddess of perfume, and describe the practices used to enhance the environment with scent.  Sachets of perfumed powders were tucked into voluminous sleeves; perfume burners and joss sticks scented every room.  Prunings of aromatic tree barks were kept in laundry and paper strips were impregnated with perfume, with bits torn off and carried for their scent.  At one time Chinese money was printed on silk and perfumed.  The Oriental philosophy was to perfume the environment rather than the person.

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