I sadly admit, I poo-poo’d aromatherapy for years as something for hippies and crunchies, but not as anything scientific or that would ever have a place in an alternative wellness practice, let alone in a medical setting. The recent essential oil craze hooked me on pinterest last year however. Since I follow a lot of health and wellness pinners, ads were beginning to pop up everywhere. Being who I am, I had to take a look. I loved the fact that they had been used since 3000 BC and were the medicinals of Christ’s day. I loved that they are plant based and the epitome of nature. I loved that maybe they could keep my family and my patients out of Doctor offices and pharmacies. I loved that they were pretty and some smelled nice (some, like the ones I use for my thinning hair, however, smell atrocious).There is something inherently girly about them and I loved that too. The creative side of essential oil therapy really appealed to me as well; listen to a patient, use my background and knowledge and create a custom blend to fit their needs? Awesome- I LOVED that idea!
“As I considered the use of EO’s more seriously for my practice, it really bothered me how they were being advertised and represented. It was hokey and pinterest-y. Sorry if that offends some, but it was how I was seeing the world of essential oils represented. I found a lot of claims, remedies and blends, but not a lot of information on how and why they are so amazing, effective and safe.”
I know an alternative healthcare that sticks around through the centuries, like acupuncture for instance, doesn’t have lasting power because it doesn’t work. My gut was telling me all was good, but I still needed to know the “why” and “how”, and in my humble opinion, every practitioner of health who utilizes or sells them should want to know as well.
I want the use of essential oils to be accepted and “legitimate” because I love the practice and I know they have so much to offer people. I also want the use to be legitimate so practitioners know why and how they are helping people. I feel it is a basic responsibility we all carry. Do not mistaken that statement for me wanting them “standardized”. That is a whole other bag of worms and I am dead set against it. Add federal government, FDA, Big Pharma and we will lose essential oil therapy before it hits it’s stride.
That being said, I don’t think headlines such as “FRANKINCENSE CURES CANCER!” or “NEVER USE AN ANTIBIOTIC AGAIN!” is going to do a lot to forward our cause. Now that I’ve been studying and researching on my own, I am certain that frankincense does in fact kill certain types of cancer cells in a really cool way. It’s incredible, actually, and here is a link to a study so you can see for yourself.
Making broad sweeping claims in a sensationalistic manner only cheapens what I know is a studied, legitimate and incredibly valuable practice.
“To continue growing as an accepted practice complementing conventional medicine, aromatherapy methods must be vetted against carefully controlled clinical and laboratory trials to demonstrate their efficacy.”
(Leonard Pearlstine, 2006. Aromatherapy Science. AromaScents Journal 35(Fall):17-24.)
So for some interesting quick-facts about aromatherapy, check this out;
- Inhaled molecules of essential oils react with nerves in the olfactory bulb and relay nerve messages to the limbic system or are absorbed into the blood stream by thin membranes of the nose, bronchioles and lungs.
- It is also now well accepted that essential oil components can be absorbed through the skin to reach internal organs.
Because they are so readily absorbed, the use of skin patches has become a common mechanism for dispensing.
- Some studies have gathered evidence demonstrating essential oils possess pharmacological effects on brain function because of the direct link to the limbic system. One researcher found that the constituents citral, myrcene and limonene decreased activity in mice and they showed a sedative and motor relaxant effect.
- Peppermint oil is believed to be effective for treating mental fatigue and enhancing alertness and the constituents of peppermint oil (such as cineol, menthone, isomenthone and menthol ) have been found to significantly increased movement activity in mice (Umezu et al. 2001).
- Spanish Sage has been found to utilize the same pathways as drugs that treat Alzheimers Disease. In fact, Tildesley, the researcher, observed significant improved immediate word recall in two placebo-controlled, double blind, crossover trials (Tildesley et al. 2003) and consistent improvements in speed of memory and secondary memory in healthy young adults (Tildesley et al. 2005).
The “quick facts” are truly endless, but I just wanted to make a point that practitioners don’t have to reduce themselves to irresponsible and sensationalistic claims concerning essential oils, when the research, history and success backs us up so well. So lets continue to tout the safety and benefits of essential oil therapy, but let’s do it in a way to build up the practice, not hold it down.