Written by Vanessa Jones, B.A  | 
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sunil Shroff, MBBS, MS, FRCS (UK), D. Urol (Lond) on Apr 22, 2016

Clinical Trials - Drug Discovery

History behind the discovery of essential oils:

Essential oils are the oldest therapeutic agents known to man besides being used for their fragrance. The Egyptians were the first to discover the potential of essential oils .

Records show that when Tutankhamen's tomb an Egyptian's chief was opened in 1922, 350 liters of oil were discovered in alabaster jars, that shows how much they treasured their essential oils. Other oils known to be used by Egyptians are myrrh, lotus, and sandalwood oils for purification and embalming rituals as well as for personal use.

In the ancient world - It was the ancient Arabian people began to study the chemical properties of essential oils and kept working on them in order to refine the distillation process. Europeans began producing essential oils in the 12th century.

During the Plague of the Middle Ages, a band of thieves robbed the dead without becoming infected. From the gang of thieves four ended up getting caught and it was found that none of them contacted the deadly plague in spite of their close contact with infected corpses because they happened to spice and perfume traders so they rubbed themselves with a spice and perfume mixture of (cinnamon, clove, and oregano) which was found to improve their immunity.

However much of the data on essential oils was lost when the great library in Alexandria was burned down.

It was only through the cosmetic and perfume industry that some of the valuable science of aromatherapy began to resurface.

The rediscovery of essential oils was made by accident by the French Chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé in July 1910. While conducting an experiment in his lab, an explosion set him a flame and after extinguishing the flames he noticed that his hand started developing Gas Gangrene so he immediately immersed his hand in a vessel near by which he thought was water, it immediately stopped the process from further worsening.

It so happened that he had actually immersed his hand in pure lavender oil thinking it was water. From the next day his hand started healing and with a regular application of lavender oil his hand healed without a scar. This incident led Dr.Maurice Gattefosse to start investigating the chemistry of lavender oil and its healing properties.

During World War II , Dr. Jean Valnet a French physician used therapeutic-grade essential oils on patients who suffered battlefield injuries and saved the lives of many soldiers. After the war, Dr.Jean Valnet documented his clinical findings in his book, The Practice of Aromatherapy.

Few years later Daniel Pénoël, a student of Dr.Jean Valnet co-authored the first medical textbook on the chemistry and clinical application of essential oils: L'aromathérapie exactement.

Discovery of the heart drug called Digitalis:

It was William Withering a Scotish Doctor who discovered Digitalis . This discovery was made in the 16th century due to his girlfriend who got him interested in plants and botany while he was working in the university of Staffordshire as a physician. As a result he ended up publishing a huge treatise in 1776, whose title reads 'A botanical arrangement of all the vegetables growing in Great Britain,...' and goes on for a further 24 lines.

In 1775, William Withering was approached by one of his patients with a rare heart condition, however he had no effective treatment for him and had given up hope of treating him and had no doubt in his mind that his patient was going to die. However the patient did not give up hope , he instead went to a local gypsy who treated him with a secret herbal concoction and eventually recovered .

William Withering got to know about the reversal of his patients fate and was ecstatic on hearing the news, he immediately began his search for the gypsy. With much difficulty he found her and bargained his way into getting the ingredients from her. It was found that the herbal remedy was made of a mixture of different substances but the most active ingredient was purple foxglove, digitalis purpurea.


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ArpitTrivedi Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hi everyone. I need some guidance from all Clinical Research experts. I want to pursue a course : "Masters in Clinical Research : MSCR" offered by ICRI-MUSC. It is a 2 year course, 1st year course by ICRI Global Research and 2nd year course by Medical University of South Carolina. Is this a genuine course or some sort of gamble? Please give your valuable guidance. I have completed my MSc in Biochemistry this year in India.

cresenti Saturday, June 26, 2010


Rahul123 Friday, April 2, 2010

Yes, clinical research is a growing industry in India at the moment. I am a BSc Biochem and want to make my career in this field. I recently joined James Lind Institute for my clinical research course and I hope to get placed somewhere soon.
Rahul Jain

harshit Friday, October 9, 2009

There is a need of good clinical researcher professionals as India is going to be major hub of clinical trial industry. This can be achieved by educating medical professionals, researchers and graduates on Good Clinical Practice, Ethical conduct of the trial, discouraging fabrication of data and following timelines.

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