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According to Robert Todd Carrolls the Skeptics Dictionary, the term is a bit misleading, since the aromas of oils, whether natural or synthetic, are generally not themselves therapeutic. Carroll adds that aromas are used to identify the oils, to determine adulteration, and to stir the memory, but not to directly bring about a cure or healing.
It is the ‘Essence’ of the oil–its chemical properties–that gives it whatever therapeutic value the oil might have. Furthermore, vapors are used in some but not all cases of aromatherapy. In most cases, the oil is rubbed onto the skin or ingested in a tea or other liquid. Some aromatherapists even consider cooking with herbs a type of aromatherapy.
Over at QuackWatch.org, Stephen Barrett, M.D., has researched these claims aromatherapy. He has studied into is Aroma Vera, Inc., of Los Angeles, which states that essential oils have the power to purify the air we breathe while they relax, stimulate, soothe or sharpen our senses… a wonderful antidote to the air pollution and scentsory imbalance of modern life. It also claims that inhaling the scents balances the biological background, revitalizes the cells, and produces a strong energizing effect on the sympathetic nervous system.
Joint Adventure, of Rogers, Arkansas, suggests that essential oils can be used for many different purposes from athletes foot to enlightenment and almost every point between! One more practitioner is in Dr. Barretts growing dossier.
This practitioner claims that the technique addresses the nervous system and the energy fields of the body. It soothes the body, cleans the body, clears the body, and tones the body. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood, states there are about 300 essential oils that constitute an extremely effective medical system.
In the Skeptics Dictionary, Carroll concludes: I would not reject aromatherapy out of hand, however, when I have a cold and a stuffy nose, Ill use Vicks VapoRub, a mixture of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil. Strictly speaking, I suppose I am a practicing aromatherapist. However, when I look at what people who call themselves aromatherapists claim, I have to conclude that aromatherapy is mostly a pseudoscientific alternative medical therapy. It is a mixture of folklore, trial and error, anecdote, testimonial, New Age spiritualism and fantasy. What aromatherapy lacks is a knack for sniffing out nonsense.
I agree with Carrolls findings. I recently bought a Marjoram scent from Aromas Naturales, a company based in Spain and with ISO 9001 certification. I first had my dad use it at night, to test its claim that it will eliminate snoring. My purchase had a 40day guarantee. Guess what? I ended up not returning it, although I was highly skeptical at first. I even bought another jar for myself. Bottomline is it hasn’t totally eliminated snoring as far I know from what my family members tell me but it sure has eliminated a major portion of it. And my mom attests to that. She sleeps better now in my dads room.