Roots: the earliest history of the essential oil industry

The savor of an aperitif, the fulsome rose bouquet of an expensive perfume, or even the taste of your day-to-day toothpaste, all have something in common. They all contain essential oils, those volatile constituents of plants which, when distilled, register on the human organism as fragrance and flavor. The industry that has provided humanity with these important and delightful products is certainly among the most ancient and most cosmopolitan of all industries. Its roots reach deeply into mankind's first efforts to create civilized life. But the process of recreating this history is not a simple one. It must be discovered by looking tinto the origins of many disciplines--religion, philosophy, commerce, chemistry, botany and pharmacy. The further one desires to look, the more complex the story becomes. Modern technology, from the time of Robert Boyle (1627-91), father of modern chemistry, is relatively familiar. But the fifteen centuries from the first century A.D. until Boyle, when many of the first efforts were made to develop the science and tools used today, tell a story that if unfamiliar, though fascinating. Many personalities, ideas, and cultures played a unique part in the birth and youth of modern sciences upon which we now draw for familiar products.

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