The history of aromatherapy dates back to more than 3,500 BC. It is one of the oldest forms of medicine starting in Egypt and China then moving to Greece and Rome. After Rome fell, the Persians contributed to the history and during the Crusades, the study of aromatherapy again moved to Europe.
The Egyptians first used aromatherapy by burning incense to their gods. It was in the third dynasty (2650-2575 BC) that they developed the process of embalming using oils. By the 25th dynasty (657 BC), they had refined the use of oils in the fields of incense, medicine, cosmetics, and perfume.
At the same time the Egyptians were exploring aromatherapy, the Chinese were also using aromatic plants to promote health and well-being.
As Egypt's dominance declined around 300 BC, the Greeks used aromatherapy in a more scientific form of medicine. Hippocrates used massage, bathing, and the internal use of herbs to cure illness.
The Romans built upon the knowledge of the Greeks. They were well known for their scented baths and aromatic massages.
After the fall of Rome, Persia continued to build on the study of aromatic plants. Al-Razi (865-925) and Ibn Sina (980-1037) wrote many books and articles about medicine. A Persian named Avicenna invented a coiled pipe that improved the distillation process.
The soldiers returning from the Crusades brought with them some of the knowledge of the East, including perfume and aromatics. By the time of the second Black Plague, John Gerard had influenced apothecaries with his work 'Herbal, or General Historie of Plantes' to start making their own medicine.
During the beginning of the 20th century, a French chemist named Rene-Maurice Gattefose began to study essential oils for their medicinal properties. Robert B. Tisserand brought the knowledge of aromatherapy to English speaking countries with his book 'The Art of Aromatherapy', the first book on aromatherapy written in English. In the 21st century, people have become aware of the benefits of using natural products over synthetic ones. This has increased the popularity of aromatherapy.