Scents that Heal

Aromatherapy in Ancient Azerbaijani Medicine

by Dr. Farid Alakbarov

[…]In Azerbaijan as well, aromatherapy was once considered to be part of mainstream medicine. Medieval Azerbaijani doctors regularly prescribed essential oils and other fragrances for their patients. For example, a bath that smelled of roses – such as Cleopatra used to take – would have been prescribed for someone who was feeling melancholic or who had a headache.

Historian Farid Alakbarov specializes in studying ancient Azerbaijani manuscripts, including the medical texts that describe aromatherapy. These writings – which are only available in Arabic script – are housed at Baku’s Manuscripts Institute. Here Farid shares his research on ancient and medieval beliefs about the healing power of scents.

[…] Forgotten Knowledge
Unfortunately, the use of aromatherapy is not widespread in Azerbaijan today – in fact, many Azerbaijani doctors have never even heard of the term. These practices are only followed on a small scale by folk healers, who rely on herbs like thyme, rose and lemon balm.

A great many of the manuscripts related to aromatherapy that survived from the Middle Ages were destroyed during this past century. After the Bolsheviks captured Baku in 1920 and established the Soviet Union, Azerbaijanis were forced to forget their historical roots, religions, traditions and beliefs.

Purge of Arabic Script
The Bolsheviks set out to completely destroy the “Old World of Violence” and build up what they considered to be a more idealistic world of their own. As the Soviets were eager to stamp out all Islamic influence, they carried out book-burning campaigns. But it wasn’t just the Koran and religious manuscripts that fell victim to such a policy. Manuscripts containing medical and scientific observations that were written in the Arabic script were destroyed, too.

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