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Cultures of Native Americans: Aromatherapy

Gideon Anderson

Aromatherapy is a healing and magical practice that’s been used for centuries. It is listed in the hieroglyphs of Egypt, but certainly has a far longer history. The earliest known medical text for working with aromas and oils has been discovered in the Orient and is approximately 5000 years old. One must assume that if medical texts were written this long ago, that the fledging practice or aromatherapy is much, much older. So as to write a medical text was a history to use as a start.

The ancient civilizations developed their practices based on what plants were available to them. As contact started to increase between Asia, Africa and Europe, the earliest spice routes, sailing explorations and afterwards trade routes led to cross-culture contact. This, in turn, created some similarities in form and practice. In the Americas, separated by thousands of miles of oceans to the East and the West, an aromatherapy clinic developed based on various species of plants and a few differences in ritual. Until tobacco became a recreational drug, the Americas had small crossing of the practices with other continents.

While the other civilizations of the world searched near and far, from continent to continent for particular woods and flowers to create their products, native cultures in The Americas lived more in harmony with the land, using native plants. Obviously, it was far more challenging for them to exchange with the oceans to cross, but the comparative isolation from external sources created an evolutionary gap in their decisions and practices.

The Shamans of The Southern Americas used hallucinogens such as mescaline because of their spiritual journeys and Machis drove off evil spirits with blossoms. From the Northern climes of the Americas, the hallucinogen of selection has been peyote and evil spirits were driven off with the smoke of sage.

While the Egyptians used olive oil as a foundation for their essential oils, there isn’t any evidence that the civilizations of the Americas used oil as a foundation in exactly the identical way. Herbs were dried for digestion (medical purposes) and for smudging to clean the body and distances of any unwanted energies. It would be logical though for them to be making salves and unguents from fats that are left. With a huge supply of native nuts, oil might have been extracted from them. The tribes that had settlements likely had more variety in the way they combined herbs and forests compared to tribes who were mostly nomadic.