A Little Aromatherapy History- Florence Nightingale's Contribution to Aromatherapy

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

The 1800’s

            In 1820, Florence Nightingale, one of the founders of nursing and an integral part of shaping nursing as it is now.  In 1845 she was pulled to work in the hospitals.  At that time, nursing was a lowly occupation not fit for a well-educated woman.  Nurses were considered ignorant, coarse, and found to be drunkards and overly promiscuous.  

In 1850 Florence Nightingale finally got her chance to start training to become a nurse at the Institute of Saint Vincent de Paul in Alexandria, Egypt in a hospital run by the Roman Catholics.  After her training was completed she was able to return to England to work as the Superintendent at the Establishment for Gentlewoman during times they would fall sick.

In 1854 the Crimean broke out and Florence was stationed in Turkey.  She was responsible for a team of 38 nurses who found their working conditions disgusting, to say the least.  During Florence’s time working at that hospital, she decreased the mortality rate by 45%.  Florence began using essential oils and aromatherapy to ensure that the facilities were clean.  She also was credited with using lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil on the brows of the badly wounded soldiers.  She did this because she believed (with complete accuracy) that the lavender would help to soothe the soldiers and help to protect them from the deplorable conditions that they were supposed to recover in.  She also used myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and after the Crimean War ended, she sent a letter to the medical storekeeper at the Balaclava General Hospital requesting 6 bottles of the tincture sent to her, so it could be used in England.

Because of Florence Nightingale, essential oils found a valuable place in the medical community and among nursing professionals.  She will forever have a lasting legacy within the nursing profession because of the work she did to elevate it and ensure education practices were in place, but her essential oil use and aromatherapy practices have not been widely known. Florence Nightingale is not credited with their implementation into nursing practice, but instead, Madame Marguerite Maury (1895-1968) receives that distinguished honor (Petersen, 2017).


Fee, E., & Garofalo, M. (2010, September). Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War. Retrieved from PMC: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920984/

Green Valley Aromatherapy Ltd. (n.d.). Essential Oils & Aromatherapy In Nursing. Retrieved from Green Valley Aromatherapy: https://57aromas.com/article/essential-oils-aromatherapy-nursing/

Petersen, D. (2017). NAT 203 Historical Modalities I: Iridology (18th edition). Portland, Oregon: ACHS.

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