At this time of year, around Saint Valentine's Day, many of us turn our attention to giving sweet gifts to our sweethearts. Candy and roses come to mind most readily. However, the "sweets" that are available to us through our sense of smell are limited only by our imaginations and the bounty of Nature.
MEDICINAL & SPIRITUAL USAGE OF ESSENTIAL OILS THROUGH THE MILLENNIA
For millennia people have been diffusing herbs, spices and flowers into oils and perfumes for spiritual and medicinal purposes. Ancient texts tell us, for example that Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians anointed their heroes, priests, and public leaders in scented oils.
By the 11th century, the Persian philosopher and physician, Avicenna, recorded in The Canon of Medicine more than 800 curatives of botanical origin, and described a method of steam distillation for essential oils that is still used today. Despite the religious and cultural divides between Medieval Christians and Moslems, The Canon of Medicine became a standard medical text at Christian universities throughout the Middle Ages.
Saint Hildegard, a 12th-century Benedictine nun, provides us a much more spiritual description of the value of plants and their odors. In her treatise on natural medicine, Physica, Hildegard explains that "the earth has many useful herbs that reach to man's spiritual needs . . ...." And she concludes her introduction with the observation that, "Certain herbs have within them either the power of the strongest aromas or the harshness of the most bitter aromas." These aromas, according to Hildegard, protected humans from the "many ills which evil spirits make."
In fact, the belief that scented oils protected you from "ills" persisted into the 17th century. One popular legend of the time tells the story of the miraculous survival of four grave robbers who survived rummaging through mass graves filled with victims of the Black Plague. When given the choice to surrender their secret to survival or face execution, the thieves attributed their success to an exotic blend of aromatic oils. Even today, you can find "Four Thieves" oil blends to boost your immune systems.
ESSENTIAL OILS IN MODERN LIFE
Today we rely on other means of protection from the plague, and we typically trust science to explain what ails us rather than divining what evil spirits may be at play. But even with the changes over the years essential oils and aromatherapy still can play a role in our lives. And we don't always have to focus on preventing illness.
Because we have access to such a wide array of botanicals we can use aromatherapies in soaps, bath oils, candles, lotions and balms. And the combinations of aromas can be as homey and comfortable as lavender with orange, or as exotic as clove blended with rosemary and myrrh.