The Secret History of Essential Oils in Ancient Rome
When you think of Ancient Rome, you picture gladiators fighting in the Colosseum, large temples with grand columns, and men and women walking around in togas speaking Latin. One thing you may not know about the Ancient Romans is how much they incorporated the use of essential oils into their everyday lives.
The Ancient Romans were extremely advanced not only in their technology but their society as well. They learned practices of hygiene and healing from the Greeks, especially when it came to the use of essential oils.
Contrary to some beliefs, Romans in these ancient times paid specific attention to their hygiene and aesthetics. With public bathhouses, they would wash themselves, receive massages, and relax and enjoy aromatherapy.
As essential oils gain more popularity in the 21st century, it’s important to know that these oils and benefits were used thousands of years ago by our ancestors - proving their reliability and powerful effects.
Essential Oils for Hygiene
The Ancient Romans took their hygiene and cleanliness very seriously. Almost daily, they would visit the public bathhouses for both social occasions and to wash away the day’s dirt and grime.
They would use essential oils in their hair, clothes, and perfumes on their skin. If they couldn’t make it to the bathhouse, some Romans would lather the essential oils on their skin along with olive oil and scrape it off with a tool called a strigil.
As mentioned above, the public bathhouses were filled with essential oils for
aromatherapy. A particular favorite was lavender.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is still a vastly popular essential oil with a number of great benefits. It
promotes relaxation and can reduce anxiety and depression. This is just one of the reasons the Romans used it in their bathhouses. It also has healing properties such as treating eczema, nausea, and menstrual
Ancient Roman women were especially concerned with aesthetics and how they
presented themselves. The wealthy women were able to wear signature perfumes that were mixtures of essential oils.
One of these perfumes was rhodium, which is a mixture of rose and narcissus
flowers. Another popular perfume was susinum, a mixture of honey, calamus,
cinnamon, myrrh, and saffron.
Essential Oils for Healing
Essential oils weren’t only used for aesthetics and pleasure in Ancient Rome; they also served as medicine thanks to their healing properties. As you probably know, the Romans loved watching gladiator battles in the Colosseum. These intense and violent battles often ended in injuries and death.
Before modern medicine came to be, ancient civilizations relied on herbs and plants to treat health issues. Claudius Galen, a Greek physician and surgeon, treated gladiator wounds with herbs and essential oils. It’s said that no gladiator ever died from his injuries when treated by Galen.
Galen had a pharmacy with shelves lined with these health-promoting essential oils, herbs, and plants. Some of the oils among them included fennel, elecampane, and silphium.
Fennel, which is still a popular item to snack on in modern-day Italy, has various
health benefits when used as an oil. Not only does it tend to calm nerves and
promote relaxation, but it can also heal wounds.
Elecampane has many benefits, especially for the digestive tract. It also has
anti-inflammatory properties, boosts the immune system and metabolism, and can clear the respiratory tract. This would have been a natural go-to remedy for many illnesses in Ancient Rome.
Silphium is still a mystery to us today. We aren’t sure exactly what plant this is, but researchers believe it became extinct at some point. It was the ultimate cold
medicine as it treated fever, aches and pains, coughing, and indigestion.
Essential Oils for Religion
Enormous temples and statues of deities covered the Ancient Roman empire. They believed in many powerful gods and goddesses and relied on their gifts and specialties for love, war, agriculture, and more. The Ancient Romans would fumigate their temples and sometimes political buildings with essential oils. These aromas would promote relaxation, a feeling of being closer to the gods, and allow Romans to look at themselves internally. The most common essential oils used for religious reasons include sage, myrrh, frankincense, and cedarwood.
During the Roman empire, people would use sage to feel closer to the gods or
goddesses they were praying to. This may be due to the anxiety-reducing and
antidepressant properties it has. It also has medical benefits as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
You may recognize myrrh from the biblical story of the three wise men visiting Jesus at his birth. It was an important aroma even in the Roman era as it reduced anxiety and depression, relieved pain, heals open sores, and may even kill bacteria. It also has antioxidant properties.
Yet another gift of the three wise men, frankincense, was particularly popular
amongst the Ancient Romans and often used in combination with myrrh. Not only does it promote feelings of peacefulness and relaxation, but it has medicinal properties as well. Frankincense is an anti-inflammatory and can benefit the digestive tract, oral health, and anti-aging.
Cedarwood was another popular aroma to use in temples and political buildings. Its main properties relieve stress and anxiety and promote sleep, which is ideal when praying. It also relieves pain and is antibacterial.
Do as the Romans Did with Magna Dea
We now look back at Ancient Rome and idolize its practices, culture, and advanced technologies. While we can’t go back and live during this era, we can introduce some of their rituals and beliefs into our everyday modern lives with essential oils. This is possible and even easier with the pure essential oils from Magna Dea. Our essential oils are named after powerful Roman goddesses, so you can channel your inner goddess and do as the Romans do.
Transform these ancient practices into modern-day routines with Magna Dea and experience the exquisite benefits of essential oils today.