Ancient Uses of Perfume and Essential Oils

In ancient times, essential oils and other aromatics were used for religious rituals, as well as for the treatment of illness and other physical and spiritual needs. According to the Essential Oils Desk Reference compiled by Essence Science Publishing, Records dating back to 4500 B.C. describes the use of balsamic substances with aromatic properties for religious rituals and medical applications. The translation of ancient papyrus found in the Temple of Edfu, located on the west bank of the Nile reveals medicinal formulas and perfume recipes used by the alchemist and high priest in blending aromatic substances for rituals performed in the temples and pyramids. As well, Hieroglyphics on the walls of Egyptian temples depict the blending of oils and describe hundreds of oil recipes. Within these writings tell of scented barks, resins of spices, and aromatic vinegars, wines and beers that were used in rituals, temples, for embalming and medicine. Thus, the Egyptians were credited as the first to discover the potential of fragrance and were considered masters in using essential oils and other aromatics in the embalming process. They created various aromatic blends for personal use, placing them in alabaster jars a vessel specially carved and shaped for holding fragrant oils. In fact, when King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1922, 350 liters of oils were discovered in alabaster jars. Amazingly, because of the solidification of plant waxes sealing the opening of the jars, the liquefied oil was in perfect condition.

In the upper region of Egypt, a sect of Jews, called Essenes, were known for their healing arts and use of essential oils. Both Philo and Josephus writings indicated that at the period in which John the Baptist and Jesus were born, the Essenes were scattered over Palestine, numbering about four thousand souls. The Essenes or Therapeuts (used interchangeably) refer primarily to the art of healing which these devotees professed, as it was believed in those days that sanctity was closely allied to the exercise of this power, and that no cure of any sort could be imputed simply to natural causes. (Source:,

Ancient Uses for Perfume

The Holy Scriptures record over 1,035 references to aromatics, ointments, savors, fragrances, plants and incense-most implying essential oils. Twelve of the most highly-praised fragrances in the world mentioned in the Bible include: Frankincense, Myrrh, Spikenard, Hyssop, Cypress, Myrtle, Aloes, Sandalwood, Galbanum, Cinnamon, Cassia, and Onycha. Many were in the prescribed preparation of the Holy Anointing Oil and Holy Incense for Temple services, as well as for anointing and healing the sick. The people of the ancient world understood the importance of maintaining wellness and physical health, as well as the oils ability to enhance their spiritual state of worship, prayer, and for the purification from sin. King David alluded to this in Psalm 51:7 when he wrote, Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. While David’s Psalm may have been speaking of a spiritual purification from his own sin of adultery with Bathsheba, today we know that the chemical constituents of essential oils including hyssop are able to penetrate the cell wall and transport needed oxygen and nutrients to the cell nucleus. Most essential oils can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled into the lungs where they then make their way into the bloodstream. The sense of smell affects the limbic region of the brain, which controls emotions, memory and the hypothalamus, which regulates the pituitary, which in turn balances the entire hormonal system of the body.