The term Aromatherapy first came up in the 20th century with reference to using essential oils for treating diverse physical or psychic ills. The principles of aromatherapy can be traced back to ancient Egypt; the Egyptians were very knowledgeable of plants and their healing powers. Between the 19th and 20th century, pharmacists used fresh plants for making infusions and ointments. The use of fresh plants in medicine and many of the traditional practices was soon replaced with modern science.
In 1920, René Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist with a family tradition in the perfume industry, commenced his personal voyage of discovery in the healing powers of plants. One fine day, so the story goes while working in his lab he burnt his hand severely after which he immediately plunged it in lavender essential oil. Apparently the burn healed quite rapidly without leaving boils or scaring. It may be considered that from his studies modern day Aromatherapy was born.
Marguerite Maury, a French biochemist also made a fine contribution to the use of essential oils. She confirmed their therapeutic effects on mind and body and also developed a method of essential oil dilution and use in massage treatments.
Aromatherapy came of age in the 1980's. By this time biochemists had isolated the various components of essential oils responsible for their amazing properties. Since the 20th century the study of plants and their properties has evolved into an exact science. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) for example was first made from a chemical substance known as salicin, extracted from willow bark. The antipyretic and analgesic properties of the willow were known by Hippocrates who recommended a tea made from willow leaves for the relief of pain and fever.