Supplying lovers of alternative therapies and treatments is a huge industry. All manner of companies are involved from big multi-nationals down to one man bands, and the level of ethics vary enormously. Various propositions are on offer.
Some, like vitamin supplements, sound science based – though the claims they make don’t always stand up to scientific scrutiny. Others, like homeopathy are obviously ridiculous and are only peddled by either charlatans or idiots.
One popular option is aromatherapy. The idea that using aromatic oils derived from plants can affect your health is one that seems to me to be plausible. But I am a scientist and I want evidence before I will believe it. I have kept an eye on the scientific literature and I have found some evidence that the basic idea behind aromatherapy might work. Lavender oil in particular is supported by serious studies.
The problem I have with aromatherapy is not so much the idea, as the aromatherapists. There are many books and lots of practicioners making big, and very specific claims, for big benefits from a wide variety of oils. I am afraid this just doesn’t cut it. If something works, there should be evidence that it works.
I have been used to being dismissed as a grumpy old so and so when I put this idea forward. But it seems that the general public are falling out of love with aromatherapy. Several of my friends in the industry have told me that sales of aromatherapy related products are proving dissappointing at the moment. I had a look at Google Trends and noticed that searches for aromatherapy have halved over the last 4 years.
I think that aromatherapy may be in long term decline. And going back to my earlier point I think that the main people to blame are self styled ‘aromatherapists’. There are no valid qualifications in this area and the literature they produce is ridiculous. I think that many members of the public have begun to see through them. I have seen products that make great claims to be aromatherapy products that contain synthetic fragrances! (Look on the ingredient list for the word ‘parfum’.) It probably doesn’t help that most big multinationals now have aromatherapy variations in all their bath product ranges.
My tip is, if you are interested in the benefits of essential oils look at the properties of the oils themselves and what they can do. Some are surprisingly beneficial. And the search itself is fascinating. You will do much better if you find out what a particular oil can do and then find a product that contains that oil. Avoid any product that proclaims itself to be an aromatherapy product, and ignore anyone claiming to be an aromatherapist.