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Perfumes – the delightful scents through history

By on October 9, 2015

Two hundred pounds of rose petals were required to produce one ounce of attar in the 10th century a.d., when Avicenna first extracted rose attar

The word perfume comes from the Latin “per fumum”, meaning “through smoke”. The first ever perfumes were in fact incense, obtained by burning fragrant woods and resins to cover the animal sacrifices smell. After a while, that practice changed and incense itself became an offering to the gods.

By 3000 b.c., aromatic smells were also used to pamper the body. The ancient Egyptians took scented baths using iris, jasmine or burning cones of aromatic fat. The Romans used perfume to cover body odor and to scent bathroom walls. The Arabs used rose attar to purify mosques, honor house guests and even for food flavoring. One of the most important aromatics in India was sandalwood.

Meanwhile, in the Chinese and Japanese cultures perfumes were mostly used to scent the environment, more that the body itself, due to the fact that Asians have very few apocrine glands to cause body odor.

After the 11th century, the interest for perfume was centered around Europe. The Europeans improved the process of distillation, as the first modern perfume was created in 1370, using both essential oils and distilled alcohol. The perfume was named “Hungary water” and was actually especially created for the Queen of Hungary.

In the 1800s, the rise of organic chemistry eased the production of synthetic perfume ingredients. In 1889, in France, the House of Guerlain produced “Jicky”, the first perfume that used synthetic fragrances.

Beginning the 20th century and also nowadays, the French and the Americans hold the biggest perfume industry and perfume markets on a global level. 9 out of 10 French women wear perfume, while the Americans yearly spend over $5 billion on fragrances.

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About Laura Parvan

Medical professional, blogging passionate, with a high interest in social media impact on health-care information.