Were essential oils around 2000 years ago?

ancient bottles

ancient bottles

When I talk to others about Aromatherapy, I hear people mention that the history of essential oils goes back to the Bible. Frankincense and Myrrh are referred to, as are Cedar of Lebanon and the Rose of Sharon. Oftentimes others also talk about the ways that essential oils were used in the Bible, such as anointing the feet. As comforting as it may seem to replicate the healing methods of those ancient times, there were no essential oils produced that long ago.

To explain the Myth of Biblical oils, I went to the mythbuster of Aromatherapy, Dr. Robert Pappas. Dr. Pappas, an essential oil chemist, refutes many myths on his website. Biblical essential oils are his Myth #5, and here is his explanation:
“Aromatic materials were used in Biblical times for various medicinal, religious and ceremonial purposes but these materials would not have been essential oils, at least not by todays definition of being steam distilled products. This would have been impossible given that steam distillation had not yet even been discovered! Most people attribute the discovery of true steam distillation to a Persian scientist named Avicenna (Ibn Sina) in the 11th century. … Aromatic products used during these ancient times would have been of a crude solvent extracted nature using fats and pressed oils and the like and would not have been very concentrated (not to mention that extracted products yield very different chemistry than distilled products) and therefore their use cannot really be related to how we should use the steam distilled essential oils of today.”

Yes, oils were used in Biblical times, just not steam distilled essential oils. That certainly does not devalue the oils used back then, it is more of a comparison of apples and oranges. You may love apple pie, but you would probably not use oranges in place of apples. Although you would eat either one fresh. So, it is merely a matter of realizing that the two are different and that each has its own uses.