Is there scientific proof that aromatherapy actually works?

Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant increase in the use of aromatherapy as a remedy to alleviate common ailments. In 2018, the global essential oils market size was valued at 7.03 billion dollars. This has been projected to double in size by the end of 2026.

As the essential oil industry grows in size and popularity, more and more people are incorporating its use in their lives to help address issues such as stress, pain and emotional issues. One reason can be attributed to numerous online posts which continues to help raise awareness on the benefits of essential oils. There has also been an increase in the number of online shops selling essential oils.

The use of pure and natural essences derived from plants, has long been used to relieve stress related ailments, pains as well as emotional issues. Conventional medicine has only recently started to take notice of this tradition.

You may not have directly been involved with essential oils, but indirectly most people would have been come across this without even being aware.

A simple example is Vick’s Vaporub, an ointment typically rubbed on the chest to relieve nagging coughs. This product contains eucalyptus and camphor essential oils and widely used in a lot of households.

Or, you may have overheard conversations about a lavender spray in the bedroom which has greatly helped a friend with having good night sleep or inhaling the vapour of eucalyptus oil which has improved someone’s respiratory system.

WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY?

The practice of aromatherapy involves the inhalation and topical application of pure essential oils of therapeutic grade to restore or enhance health, beauty and well-being. 

It works on a holistic level and addresses the whole person:

  • Mind
  • Body
  • Spirit

Natural essential oils which are pure plant essences, are mostly extracted by steam distillation. These oils contain complex chemical components that have the power to treat all kinds of ailments.

Used correctly avoids side effects.

Essential oils are plentiful and come from various sources. As far as I am aware, most plants, resins, barks, leaves, fruits and berries have been distilled or cold pressed and their essences have been used for therapeutic purposes.

Each essential oil has a unique property due to its individual chemical composition. When the right oil is used for a specific issue such as: physical, mental or emotional, the effect is instantaneous.

Before use, essential oils must be diluted i.e., added to a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil before use.

The blended oils are then used in several different ways depending on need. These can be applied directly to the skin, sniffed, added to a bath, or diffused in an oil burner to release the aroma into the air. Soaps and body care products lotions are commonly made with essential oils.

Over the centuries many cultures have used plant extracts, both in the form of oils or herbs to deal with health problems from minor wounds to more complex health issues, both physical and psychological.

Let’s look at what scientific research has to say about the efficacy of essential oils.

DO ESSENTIAL OILS AND AROMATHERAPY WORK?

To date, there has not been enough evidence-backed research to prove that the application of essential oils has cured specific illnesses.

However, certain studies carried out on the effects of certain oils on particular aliments have shown positive outcomes.

The scientific studies involving patient with blood pressure.

The use of tea tree oil in the treatment of acne.

The use of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood  to treat hair loss (alopecia areata).

The inclusion of tea tree oil in the treatment of athlete’s foot fungus.

The result on a study of the natural antibacterial qualities and anti-inflammatory properties of citrus essential oils.

Medical news today talked about the benefits of essential oils to relieve stress and anxiety. Here is a study on the use lavender essential oil for anxiety disorders.

Despite the lack of conclusive scientific results on cure of ailments after the use of essential oils, their popularity continues to increase. This is evident by the continuous growth of the industry over the past 10 years.

There are several speculations as to why there has been a steady increase in public interest in essential oils. One of which can be that more and more people are seeking an alternative way of life. Another is to tackle common problems such as sleeplessness, anxiety, migraines and memory issues for which conventional medicines have not yet managed to find a cure. 

A word of warning about using essential oils: People assume that as essential oils are natural products, they are unlikely to cause side effects. This is not entirely true. There are potential side effects which can include: Irritation and burning, which is why I always advise to dilute oils with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin.

Essential oils are powerful healing essences and should be used with care and knowledge. The strongest advice I will impart is to always consult an experienced practitioner. Avoid attempting to create your own recipes from on-line menus as these can potentially be hazardous to health.

Always consult a practitioner.

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