Scents – past and presentThe use of aromatic plants precedes the written monuments in which they are described. Archaeological data shows that the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Crete, and China have been skillful in the extraction and mixing of vegetable oils and ointments, using aromatic resins, infusions and wood. Barks of trees and herbs (incense, myrth, myrtle, cedar, cinnamon, fir, etc.) were burned during religious ceremonies as a gift to the Gods.
Aromatic compounds are found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs who lived more than 3000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians made infusions by placing resins, wood, etc. in water and oil, and then rubbed their bodies with the prepared substance. They also used these aromas to mummify the bodies of the dead, thus eternalizing them. Rich women were so enchanted by the use of natural fragrance perfumes that they applied a different fragrance to every part of their body every day. Cleopatra was a fan of fragrances to fanaticism. She was so skilled in their use that she perfumed the sails of her ship to attract Mark Antony's attention.


The Greeks learned how to use the scents from the Egyptians. During the Olympic Games, Greek athletes were smeared with aromatic anise, tarragon and coriander oil to increase their strength and stamina. After the Romans conquered Greece, they took full advantage of the many uses of aromatic oils. They generously poured perfume over their bodies, perfumed their clothes, furniture, the military flags, and even the big amphitheaters. The Roman soldiers were generously perfumed before battle. At Nero's feasts, the guests were "immersed" in an atmosphere of pink scent. According to some ancient documentsaround 2500 and 3000 tons of incense and between 450 and 600 tons of myrrh from Arabia were imported in Rome during the first century. The fall of the Western Roman Empire provoked a sharp but temporary suspension of the most extravagant use of scents the world had ever seen. Subsequently, as capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople became an important center of civilization as a criterion for high standard, and its citizens generously used the fragrant products. This widespread use of scents from the population has angered the Church. The use of perfumes has become synonymous with decline and debauchery, which is why the early Church anathematized the use of aromatic products. This put an end to the widespread use of aromatic oils in Europe.

However, the application of aromas continued in the Middle and Far East. In the 7thcentury, the Arabs continued the traditional art of fragrance production which preserved ancient knowledge and played an important role in their revival in other parts of the world. It is believed that in the 10th century, ancient physician Avicenna discovered the distillation process for extracting essences from plants and flowers. In the 13th century, the Knights of the Crusades rediscovered their passion for fragrances. hospitals and homes in an attempt to prevent the infectious disease. Perfumers and those who were in daily contact with the aromatic plants seemed to be immunized against the plague. The use of herbs and fragrances increased its popularity during the onset of another plague epidemic in Europe in 1665. It was recommended to burn aromatic substances in every home in order to disinfect air against deadly bacteria.The application of aromatic oils peaked in the 18th century in France during the reign of Louis XV. During holidays, even water in the fountains of Paris smelled like perfume. Various perfumes were used daily in the palace.

In the middle of the 19th century, scientists began to produce synthetic versions of essential oils instead of those pure and natural oils that have been valued for centuries.


Synthetic aromas are usually made from petroleum derivatives and other synthetic materials. They not only create harmful side effects for people who use them, but the production of these chemicals also pollutes the environment. They cannot help with balancing the human body and, of course, cannot ensure harmony with nature. The use of natural oils is becoming more and more popular, as more and more people are becoming aware of their remarkable properties. If we can use history as a guide to the future, perhaps people will rediscover what ancient people knew very well - the important value of plants and their valuable oils.

 Автор: Nikolay Hristov