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Is All the Hype About Aromatherapy and Essential Oils True?
Is All the Hype About Aromatherapy and Essential Oils True?
let's make sure that you understand the true definition of aromatherapy.
Holistic aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils,
including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.
Holistic aromatherapy does not include the use of fragrance oils
or other synthetic products. For a more detailed explaination, see
AromaWeb's article entitled What
In the United States, no laws exist governing
the use of the term aromatherapy, so any manufacturer, even
those that include synthetic ingredients, can slap the word aromatherapy
onto their label. And unfortunately, a number of companies do just
that. Some even go so far as to hype unfounded claims. A majority
of consumers mistakenly think that candles made using paraffin wax
and fragrance oils (both emit toxins when burned) and a number of
other toxic products that smell nice are suitable for aromatherapy.
Some journalists, manufacturers and retailers
even refer to aromatherapy as a "new discovery" thus giving
the illusion that aromatherapy may be a new fad. Read the History
of Aromatherapy to learn of its real origins. Journalists also
routinely misrepresent the field of holistic aromatherapy and fill
their fluff pieces with buzzwords like "cure."
Below are a few common questions and answers that
will help clarify what aromatherapy can and can't do.
Can aromatherapy cure my major illness or psychological problem?
If you expect that aromatherapy alone will cure
a major illness or permanently "cure" "stress,"
you will likely be in for a disappointment. But if you develop
a realistic mindset and expect that aromatherapy may help
with a physical condition, may help with symptoms, may effect
your mood, or help alleviate or temporarily eliminate stress or
other psychological factors, you should be delighted with the
overall results that you experience by incorporating aromatherapy
into your lifestyle.
Holistic aromatherapy is a complementary alternative
health modality. Aromatherapy is not intended to replace standard
medical care, but is meant to complement it. In some cases, under
the the guidance of a qualified practitioner, aromatherapy can
offer an alternative choice to taking prescription or over-the-counter
drugs. Aromatherapy can offer practical benefit for a variety
of common ailments or symptoms such as assisting with cuts, wounds,
bruises, inflammation, arthritis, muscle stiffness, indigestion,
acne, skincare, haircare, hygiene, PMS, menstruation, and for
providing mental and emotional assistance with such issues as
stress, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, fear and enhancing concentration.
The first aromatherapy blend that I created
and tried for a physical ailment was intended to help with the
painful arthritis in my knees. I wasn't sure what to expect of
this very first blend that I had made. To my skeptical amazement,
I had relief. The relief did not occur instantaneously, nor would
I classify the relief as "permanent," but it did lead
the way for me to be able to increase my physical activity, lose
weight and strengthen the muscles surrounding my knees. As a result,
the exterme pain I once had is a distant memory. For more information,
read Aromatherapy for Arthritis.
This story is merely one example of the realistic results that
you may experience by introducing aromatherapy into your
lifestyle. I use the word "may" because everyone
is different and everyone's experiences can vary.
Aromatherapy does have valid and extraordinary
uses. It can improve one's lifestyle tremendously, especially
if you take the time to become educated about each essential oil,
its chemistry, safety and applications. But, as with anything
in life, sensibility comes into play. Do not fall prey to any
claims that aromatherapy can cure major illnesses or can cause
miracles to happen. Aromatherapy can be play a beneficial role
in assisting with illnesses, but it should not be depended
upon as a cure.
Is there any actual "science" behind the use of essential
Essential oils are comprised of an array of
naturally occurring constituents like esters, oxides, alcohols,
phenols and aldehydes. Without giving you a full lesson in chemistry,
let's use Roman
Chamomile Essential Oil and Lavender
Essential Oil as quick examples. Lavender Essential Oil contains
40% linalyl acetate and Roman Chamomile Essential Oil contains
35% isobutyl angelate. [E. Joy Bowles, The
Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils (NSW, Australia: Allen
& Unwin, 2003), 192-195.] Both linalyl acetate and isobutly angelate
are esters. Esters are said to offer noteworthy anti-inflammatory
and sedative properties. Both oils are common ingredients in aromatherapy
products and recipes intended for relaxation and insomnia. Some
essential oils, by way of the natural chemical constituents they
contain, are said to be naturally anti-bacterial or antiviral.
All essential oils possess their own unique combination of constituents
that make particular oils naturally well suited for one application
Not all essential oils, however, are safe to
use in holistic aromatherapy no matter how "nice" (or "not-so-nice")
they smell. Mugwort and Wormwood Essential Oils, for example,
are generally avoided and considered hazardous
oils within the field of holistic aromatherapy because they
contain significant concentrations of ketones including thujone.
Thujone is reported to potentially cause convulsions and liver
damage. [Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, Essential
Oil Safety (United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone, 1995),
199.] Of course, method of usage can play a part, but it's more
sensible to stick with using essential oils that are generally
regarded to be safer.
Now, having said that, there are other uses
for essential oils that aren't provable by science. The spiritual
application of essential oils is a primary example. For more information,
see AromaWeb's Aromatherapy
for Spirituality & Enlightenment section.
For more information, see AromaWeb's Aromatherapy is Science Based article.
Why is aromatherapy gaining so much press and exposure now if it's been in practice for thousands of years?
The use of infused oils and essential oils (once
distillation was developed) has been in existence for thousands
of years. Read the History of Aromatherapy
to learn of its real origins. The actual term aromatherapy,
however, was only introduced earlier in the 20th century. The
surge in the popularity of aromatherapy seems to be threefold:
(1) Society today is more health conscious and
is now more receptive to natural alternative health modalities
including aromatherapy. The media, although often inaccurately,
has been actively covering the trends in increased health awareness
and alternative medicine. The media has made a point to include
the aromatherapy "buzzword."
(2) The Internet has made it easier for individuals
to access and share aromatherapy information. The ability to network
and purchase essential oils online has had a positive effect on
the growth of aromatherapy and aromatherapy businesses.
(3) Lifestyles of today are now more hectic
and stressful. Since aromatherapy can assist in reducing the symptoms
of stress and help one energize or relax, society is taking notice.
If you go to stores that sell any kind of candles, bath or beauty
products, you'll most likely see products labeled with the word
"aromatherapy." In my personal experience, most times
I see the word "aromatherapy" on products not sold by
reputable aromatherapy retailers, the word is used incorrectly.
So, the surge in awareness of aromatherapy is both positive and
negative. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation
about aromatherapy and mislabeled products around.
Some companies claim that for best results, I should use essential oils on my skin at full strength . Others claim I should never use essential oils on my skin at full strength. Which is it?
Essential oils are concentrated liquids and
are very powerful substances. They should not be consumed internally
without education from a qualified educator or without personal
counsel from a trained aromatherapist.
Essential oils should not be applied undiluted
on the skin because they can be extremely irritating in full concentration.
They can even cause permanent sensitization when used at full
strength. I speculate that companies that claim you can use oils
undiluted are making this claim so that you use your oils up faster
thus increasing your need to buy more for them. For detailed information,
read AromaWeb's Guide to Diluting
AromaWeb displays banners and provides listings to a number of aromatherapy companies. Can I have confidence in
the companies that advertise on AromaWeb?
When I first created AromaWeb in 1997, my primary
goals included (1) providing accurate information to help others
understand the principles of aromatherapy, (2) teaching readers
how to make enlightened choices about incorporating aromatherapy
safely into their lifestyles, and (3) guiding consumers on choosing
reputable companies to shop with. I was motivated by both the
number of reputable aromatherapy companies and the number of companies
that misuse the term aromatherapy and mislead consumers.
In fact, this Is All the Hype About Aromatherapy
and Essential Oils article was one of the very first articles
that I wrote for AromaWeb (but has since been updated).
I cannot guarantee the integrity of every company
that advertises on AromaWeb, but I do try to be selective in who
I permit to advertise. I will never knowingly accept advertising
from any company that I suspect of being unethical. Over the years,
there have been a lot of companies that I have turned down for
AromaWeb's valued advertisers support AromaWeb's
efforts to to share objective, honest information about the field
of holistic aromatherapy with the public. As you shop, please
make it your priority to patronize the companies that support
AromaWeb with their banner
advertising located throughout AromaWeb and the listings located
within the Global and Local
For further information, be sure to read the
array of other articles contained within AromaWeb's Article
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