Aromatherapy has been around for awhile. Some written records date back to the first century, while other written accounts about treating burns with lavender date back to 1910. However, aromatherapy is a controversial form of alternative medicine. Its efficiency is highly contested, with many people asking is “does aromatherapy really work?”. The answer might surprise you.
The answer as to the truth behind aromatherapy as a form of natural healing is that it depends on HOW you use them and WHAT you are treating.
What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy uses essential oils such as peppermint oil, lavender oil, vanilla, lemon, and more to affect a person’s mind, mood, or health. According to its proponents, essential oils are used to treat a wide variety of medical illnesses and injuries, relieve psychological ailments, and even have cosmetic purposes. Aromatherapy skeptics believe that many of these health benefits come from the placebo effect – meaning that the treatment does nothing by itself, but may still affect the patient due to the patient’s belief in the remedy – and that aromatherapy can be dangerous if done incorrectly. The truth may be somewhere in between these two sides of the debate.
Does Aromatherapy Really Work?
The simpler aspects of aromatherapy are definitely true; sense of smell is strongly linked to memory in our minds. Smells can affect our mood either positively or negatively. Because we associate some scents with pleasant sensations or memories, smelling them again at a later time can bring about relaxation and happiness. An improved mood does wonders for the human body because it relieves muscle tension, releases endorphins, and lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. Our sense of smell has real affects on our body. Don’t believe me? Coffee drinkers know that the smell of coffee alone is enough to give them a boost of energy. This is because they associate the smell with the energy and pleasure that comes from their morning cup of coffee. That’s a perfect example of one way to see how does aromatherapy really work to fight illness.
Can aromatherapy cure depression? Yes, aromatherapy cures depression in a way that’s different from how an antidepressant medication works. Think of aromatherapy as tool to help focus the mind and reinforce relaxation through meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Aromatherapy can help cure anxiety too in the same way. Scent is the most powerful memory trigger, so using a particular scent as you meditate can help you later recall that same relaxed state during a depressive episode or panic attack. A big part of curing depression is focusing your mind on something else and letting the depression fade away into the background, even if only for a few seconds in the beginning. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is self-feeding and self-perpetuating. By practicing CBT techniques to break out of that depressive cycle, you’ll give your mind a chance to normalize. Scents like lavender have been shown to bring about a state of relaxation; relaxing helps ease anxiety, and anxiety makes depression worse. So using lavender oil may reinforce CBT. Other aromatherapy scents can help with depression and anxiety as well. Citrus scents give you energy and help fight the lethargy that comes with depression, for example. Aromatherapy is not going to hurt your chance to beat depression, and some people swear by it. If you are living with depression then you know even a little bit of hope goes a long way.
But what about illness and injury to our bodies? The use of aromatherapy to treat physical ailments is an old practice, with documentation dating back to the first century. This isn’t surprising given how many modern medcines originally came from plant extracts. Aspirin was originally made from willow trees, for instance. But the question lies in whether or not an externally-applied aromatherapy can have a direct internal affect.
Can aromatherapy cure cancer? Current studies do not support any evidence that aromatherapy can cure a disease like cancer, unfortunately. However, since scent is so closely tied to our memories, there have been claims that it can help with littler things. For instance, the scent of peppermint essential oil can help treat nausea. And since aromatherapy can be used to enhance meditation or positive thinking by associating scents with good feelings, aromatherapy can improve quality of life for some patients. Don’t underestimate the power of improved quality of life!
Some aromatherapy does really work to help fight anxiety and depression, which can in turn help your body to fight diseases like cancer. The scent of peppermint oil can even help an upset stomach! You can give aromatherapy a try by buying a few popular essential oils. See for yourself what works for you!