Europeans did not get into the production of essential oils until the 12th century. Many healers, particularly the monks and nuns in the abbeys and monasteries cultivated their own aromatic plants. They also used many spices, herbs and aromatic oils from the Far East in their healing ministrations. We need to remember that all literary knowledge as well as herbal knowledge rested in the monasteries since it was the monks and nuns who copied the ancient texts. We also know that it was the men and women in these religious orders who practiced various forms of healing. Lavender in particular, was studied for its medicinal properties along with rosemary, sage, basil, chamomile, melissa and thyme. These plants seemed to do well in the colder Germanic countryside. Some of these abbeys had vast underground storerooms where they kept their herbs and the oils along with the foodstuff, wines and beer. They dispensed medication to the ill in the form of herbal teas, herbal infused oils, medicated beers, medicated wines, brandies, and herbal tinctures and salves.
While in Europe a few years ago, I visited the ruins of many of these abbeys and found that they generally placed their herb gardens right outside the windows of the infirmary. During warm days, they would carry the sick out into the garden or open the great shuttered windows so that the breezes would carry the fragrances of the plants to the sick. It was believed that these heavenly scents would help cure the sick.
Hildegard of Bingen–A Healer for Our Day Hildegard was a Benedictine abbess in the 12th century. She wrote extensively on the use of herbal remedies, tinctures, salves, ointments and oils as part of her medicine. Her writings were used as a point of reference for abbeys throughout Europe during that time and for many centuries following. Hildegard’s work with herbs, crystals, gemstones and essential oils is now being studied extensively all over Europe and is being used in American classes on aromatherapy. Educational courses in aromatherapy that are taught from a Christian perspective can help us connect to our rightful role in healing and anointing. Hildegard is but one of the more famous teachers in history on the use of aromatherapy for healing body/mind/spirit. Discover more about her in the courses offered by the Institute of Spiritual Healing and Aromatherapy.