Page: 1 | 2

The Use of Aromatic Plants in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt According to many archaeologists, the most famous and richest associations concerning the first aromatics materials are those surrounding the ancient Egyptian civilization. The Egyptians were using aromatics three thousand years before Christ for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, and to embalm their dead. According to various papyrus manuscripts, dating back to 2800BC, many aromatic plants were used for medical purposes. They made suppositories, pills, medical cakes, powders and purees, pastes and ointments for external use, etc., from a wide variety of trees and plants, as well as mineral substances and animal. They also used plant ashes and smokes. Plants used included grapes, cumin, aniseed, cedar, castor oil, coriander, garlic and water melon among many others.
In the light of scientific research, the aromas of natural aromatics such as cedarwood, cinnamon, myrrh and pine have the power to slow down putrefaction and decay. In ancient Egypt, eternal life was the main focus, which meant preserving the body forever. They tried to provide a secure resting place that would last an eternity. When Tut? ankhamun?s tomb was opened in 1922, archaeologists discovered a pot of ointment which was still redolent with the fragrance of frankincense. More recently, when forensic scientists unwrapped a three-thousand-year-old mummy, the aromas of myrrh and cedawood still wafted from the inner bandages. The mummification techniques in ancient Egypt do not just bear witnesses the embalmers? skill, but also demonstrated the extraordinary preservative powers of plant essences.
Even though the Egyptians were considered the first civilization to have knowledge of using aromatics plants as medicine, they had no knowledge of distilling essential oils. No mention of distilled oils is found in the earliest documents, and none of the containers found in tombs would have been suitable for storing essential oils. At that time, most of their healing oils were prepared by placing aromatics plant material in a vegetable oil or animal-fat base and leaving the mixture to infuse in the sun for several weeks.
According to the ancient Greek historian Dioscorides, the Egyptians eventually developed a primitive form of distillation in the 3rd century B.C. Water was poured into large clay pots over the aromatic plant parts (lavender follower tops, for example) and the pot openings were covered in woolen fibers. Fire was set below the pots and the essential oil rose in the stream which saturated the wool. This was later squeezed to obtain the essence. Cedarwood oil was highly prized at that time because it was used in medicine, embalmment and perfumery. It was one of the most expensive and sought after aromatics in the whole of the ancient world.
Another Egyptian method for extracting aromatic oils from exotic flowers, for instance, lilies, was by squeezing. Blooms were gathered into a large cloth bag and two wood sticks, one at each end, were attached to the sides of bag. These wood sticks would then be twisted round until the bag was tightly passed and the essential oil eventually oozed out of the petals. However, this method was only use to extract oils from flowers.

Page: 1 | 2
Checkout With Credit Cards
Member of NAHA