The history of home fragrances

Radiant, evocative scents have become a crucial part of creating a welcoming home, but the history of the origin of home fragrances is often overlooked compared to other aspects of interior design. Today, reed diffusers and plug-in scents are everywhere, but where did they come from? Here we'll look at the history of the development of home fragrances and how some of our favorite scents have found their way into our daily lives.

A story as old as the world

Perfumes and home fragrances developed over five thousand years ago, as far as we know, with aromatic resins used in countries like Egypt to mask the smell of animal sacrifices. Indeed, perfumes have long had religious and spiritual connotations, which is still true for many today. While Egypt used perfumes for religious sacrifices, the ancient Greeks used them for ceremonies that included communication with the gods. The development of the Silk Road between Europe and China also paved the way for the trade of incense, spices and aromatic flowers between Europe, Asia and Africa. At the time, most perfumes took the form of oils, resins, scents and even ground flowers mixed with alcohol.

Perfumes that have stood the test of time

Some of the documented ancient perfumes are still those that are very commonly used today. This is the case of the blue lotus, a lily native to the Nile, used by the ancient chemist Tapputi. While this was mainly used by the ruling class, it is much more widely available today, popular due to its soft, sweet and slightly intoxicating scent. Many of the scents used in traditional Chinese incense have found their way into homes around the world, including sandalwood, a comforting, warm scent that evokes tranquility and nature.

Perfume and medicine

If perfume and medicine have always had a connection, in those days, perfumes were widely used to cover the smell of corruption and disease. In fact, the characteristic masks of the plague doctors, which looked like crows, had this famous beak to protect them from the smelly "miasma." They were filled with an array of herbs and spices, such as roses, mint, cloves, rose petals and ambergris, which are still very popular in modern home fragrances. However, few people use them today to hopefully ward off the black plague.

The night of the times

Both the active diffusion of perfumes and the revolution of steam extraction to distill perfumes emerged in the Middle Ages. For a brief period, the use of perfumes in Europe was considered decadent and despised by the Church. However, in the Middle East, chemistry was developing rapidly and steam extraction allowed for a much wider selection of perfumes, such as citrus fruits like oranges, still used to create a bright and pungent atmosphere in the home. It was also at this time that glass bottles for home fragrances began to make their mark, as crusaders brought back bottles of rosewater stolen from invaded lands.

A range of enlightening scents

When the Enlightenment hit Europe hard, chemistry, art and spirituality began to flourish again in the West. From the 1800s onward, home fragrances and perfumes developed hand in hand as discoveries in chemistry continued to expand the range of usable ingredients. Medieval townships became cities and perfumes were developed largely to mask the sewage odors and other unpleasant smells of urban life.

The rise of modern home fragrances

While the way we use and enjoy our scents has changed, much has not. Aromatherapy is tied to the classical world's ideas about how scents influence our health. For many, scents still have spiritual connotations, used for meditation and other esoteric practices. And of course, we still like to use perfumes to mask the smells we would rather not have in our homes. However, the use of glass bottles for room fragrances and reed diffusers to create a different atmosphere and landscape in the home is a seemingly modern practice. Reed diffusers were first documented in the book Aromatherapy: Essential Oils, Plant Hormones by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé.

The different ways we have used fragrances have varied over time, as have the materials we have created them with and the reasons we have used them. However, home fragrances have been a part of life for as long as we can remember. As the most emotionally evocative sense, there is no doubt that our love for different scents will continue to flourish as long as we have noses to smell them.

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