THE PROS AND CONS OF AROMA THERAPY.
Persian poet Moslih Eddin probably came closest to suggesting what we in the modern world should do about stress:
If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.
The spirit of this ancient poem is what aromatherapy is all about. As to its claims of healing and health, most Western physicians feel they should be taken with a large grain of salt. Major studies at universities in Illinois, Ohio, and California, have shown fragrance from essential oils, such as oil of cloves or sandalwood oil, while able to affect brainwaves, produces no measurable physical change in the body processes which we normally think of as controlling factors in our health – such processes as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. In other words, disease and the symptoms of disease are largely unaffected by any odors we may inhale.
That being said, we should not dismiss the subject so conclusively without first considering alternative medicine and its uses of aromatherapy. Ayurveda medicine, a traditional medical system from Vedic India, is now practiced by over a hundred-million people in Asia alone, not to mention tens of thousands of immigrants in other parts of the globe. This system of medicine is concerned with the balance and harmony of the human body. Daily anointing of the body with oils, such as ylang ylang or patchouli, is considered essential to the health and wellbeing of each person. Cardamom and cinnamon oils are important ingredients in most Ayurveda medicine, whether taken internally or used as a topical ointment. 19th century British administrators in India were astounded at some of the sophisticated work done by Ayurveda practitioners, especially in the areas of rhinoplasty (plastic surgery) and anxiety reduction (often called “female hysteria” during the Victorian age).
Since each Ayurveda practitioner uses his or her own recipe for medicine, there can be no real standard of comparison, since there are no standard measures. In fact, the Indian Government itself has issued warnings about some of the heavy metals to be found in Ayurveda medications.
Ayurveda medicine is adamant in the benefits of aromatherapy, for everything from broken bones to constipation! Most neutral observers consider stress relief to be the prime benefit of what Ayurveda medicine does for the patient through aromatherapy. Certain fragrances, such as chamomile and valerian, when combined with a carrier oil such as sweet almond, have been shown to significantly reduce stress indicators such as pulse and breathing, and many who suffer from mild to moderate headaches claim with complete conviction that inhaling the fragrance of lemon grass causes their headaches to dissipate.
Ultimately, it is you, the consumer, who will have to judge whether or not aromatherapy can have any benefit for you. It does appear that as a stress reliever aromatherapy has some bona fide power. For anything else . . . caveat emptor, as the Romans used to say (“Let the buyer beware!”)
About the author:
Tim Torkildson divides his time between Thailand, where he teachs English, and the United States, where he is a free-lance blogger for companies such as doTerra.