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Aromatherapy: the healing power of smell

I believe aromatherapy is one of the more controversial alternative remedies and an article in the Washington Post was about…

By Anna Fong , in Blogs Health and wellness , on March 9, 2008

I believe aromatherapy is one of the more controversial alternative remedies and an article in the Washington Post was about a study that did not find support for the healing powers of aromatherapy.

Lemon and lavender odours were tested and the researchers found a slight physiological support for the lemon scent but lavender did not have a noticeable effect when compared to just plain water.

The scent of lemon is supposed to improve your mood while lavender is often used to help someone sleep or relax.

I was curious to learn more so I found a book on the topic and it stated there is a misconception that aromatherapy remedies are all about the ‘smell’ of something.

People often use aromatherapy ‘essential oils’ on the skin in combination with massage therapy so previous support for the relaxing effects of lavender might have been a result of a massage treatment using lavender oil.

Personally, I think it is difficult to conduct experiments to conclusively prove aromatherapy works or not, since our own personal associations with a specific smell cannot be controlled.

Pleasant or negative experiences are often recalled through certain smells. This why some people might find the smell of tangerine and lemongrass invigorating, but another would not. Especially if this person was chemically sensitive. I doubt an allergic reaction would be described as ‘invigorating’.

Unfortunately, this means the ‘healing power of smell’ will continue to be debated since what makes one person feel good can do the opposite for another.

Other popular scents used in aromatherapy are:

* Jasmine and chamomile often used to reduce anxiety or stress.

* Rosemary and orange peel for fatigue

* Lemon or peppermint to help with mental clarity or concentration:


  • Thanks for your restrained comments on the article, which has propagated throughout the Internet and which purports to prove that aromatherapy does not work. In fact it only proves that one aspect of aromatherapy may not work. I am working on an analytic post at the aromaconnection blog, but also have two other posts there on the article and it’s media coverage.

    Suggesting that Aromatherapy doesn’t work based on this one study is like saying that Modern Medicine doesn’t work because people die. Both modern medicine and aromatherapy have things that they can and cannot do, and the goal of research like this is to help figure out what the boundaries are.

    Unfortunately our modern media likes to over-generalize, and they have certainly done it in this case.

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