One problem with such alternative treatments as aromatherapy is that many “experts” on the subject are not really experts at all but individuals seeking to build up the importance of a product they wish to sell. Another problem is that many of the real benefits, which are difficult to identify and verify in the first place, are often touted as being real solutions to real problems when they really just “help” in most instances.
Most healthcare professionals are not completely comfortable with alternative health practices such as aromatherapy. However, many individuals, and even such prestigious institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, feel comfortable in asserting that many of these practices may have actual health benefits … albeit not as wonderful as many proponents like to claim.
Aromatherapy has not been widely studied, at least by professional researchers and institutions, so there is not a lot of hard evidence to back up many of the rather unbelievable claims.
What does seem to be commonly accepted is that the use of certain fragrances, generally in the form of “essential oils” which have been extracted from botanical sources, can affect mood … sometimes quite intensely. It is also commonly accepted that mood can influence health. So, for example, while aromatherapy may not actually “make” someone lose weight or study more effectively, it can help reduce stress which may be inhibiting mental or physical health.
It also seems to be fairly broadly accepted that various fragrances, combinations of fragrances (blending), and methods of use also appear to contribute to the final effect experienced.
Essential oils distilled from botanical sources and suspended in “carrier” oils are the most common used aromatherapy products. However, these may be used in a variety of ways. They may be “misted” into the air, applied to the skin, or combined as ingredients in other products such as soap, bath or body oil, or shampoo.
There are other forms of fragrances, such as “absolutes” which may be more intense or less pure than essential oils. These are often used in some secondary manner rather than direct skin contact due to that intensity and lack of purity. Even essential oils themselves, generally considered “mild” and of little risk may actually be of great risk for some individuals. In most cases, individuals will probably know if they are allergic to a particular product, such as nuts, but it is still a risk for some, however small.
People with health issues should not depend on aromatherapy to “heal” them, and, if in a weakened state, may wish to forego the experience. In fact, many experts both from the mainstream healthcare fields and from the world of alternative healing recommend that pregnant women and small children should skip the aromatherapy experience.
So, back to the question, “Does aromatherapy really work?”
Well, yes, it works for some things but not for others. It seems to be quite good at relieving stress, and is often used to enhance the relaxing and stress reducing benefits of other practices such as massage, yoga, and meditation. It can improve health by allowing the body and mind to ditch the stress which may be standing between them and better health.
Due to the mind-body connection, improving attitude often also improves health, so, in this way, we can probably say that aromatherapy, if not a miracle cure, is a potentially powerful tool in the pursuit of good health and a less stressful life .