Natural Health Journals

Aromatherapy Stinks!

by Andrew Van Vooren

Aromatherapy is a branch of herbal medicine that uses volatile oils from plants, known as essential oils, to affect someone’s mood and health, but does it work?  So, is Aromatherapy a branch of herbal medicine?  In Scotland, criminals with a drug addiction are to be given Aromatherapy in an offer to keep them out of prison. What is up with that?

Aromatherapy hasn’t come out of a scientific clinical test smelling of roses, report Ohio State University investigators.  The trial, in the journal, sychoneuroendocrinology, exposed 56 healthy volunteers to two popular aromatherapy scents – lemon and lavender, and then subjected them to a battery of tests to see if their immune status, pain, stress or healing abilities had improved.

Tests of the patients’ blood immune levels and hormone activity showed no significant change while the patients breathed the aromatherapy scents. Likewise, tests of the skin’s ability to heal, and of their emotional stress levels, revealed no change.  However, the experiments did show how lemon oil can boost patients’ moods. So while the scientists conclude that aromatherapy has no direct physiological effects, they add that it may raise morale and might just improve their health in ways both complex – and unquantifiable.

It is safe to say that there is little to no credible existing evidence that Aromatherapy alone can cure or treat truly serious underlying diseases, so anyone looking for a hopeful cure would be best advised to look elsewhere when it comes to serious medical conditions, and to steer clear of any marketers, practitioners or self-appointed gurus who make claims unsupported by solid evidence. 

Even if most people mean well and truly believe in the power of Aromatherapy for treating significant medical conditions, remember that people around the world believe all kinds of often dubious things, so don’t mess around when your health is concerned. There is no good evidence that Aromatherapy as a medical practice can cure anything. It can even do harm, for those sensitive or allergic to any of the oils used, particularly if applied to the skin.

Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy. Whether or not it works for an individual is essentially down to the recipient. Evidence of the therapeutic benefits of essential oils is increasing, yet experienced aroma therapists extol the treatment’s virtues because of the results they’ve seen with clients, rather than scientists’ findings. It’s a smelly thought: the aromatic art of using essential oils may not be so helpful after all.