Since the Ancient Greek and Roman times, people have tried to capture the scent of rose flowers in a usable form. Perfumed ointments were produced by extracting the oils and fats from the rose petals. However, it was not possible to isolate the pure essential oil until the Arabs had invented steam distillation. Bulgarian rose oil is used not only in pharmacology and medicine, but also in the perfume and cosmetics industries.
A painting by J Bruegel the elder, The Allegory of Scent illustrated how roses were used. It depicts a garden with flowering plants and rose pickers with a laboratory complete with distilling equipment to produce rose water as a medicine.