Aromatherapy: Smoke and mirrors or the real deal?

While filming Charlie’s Angels, Cameron Diaz brought her personal aromatherapist on location. According to Walter Scott’s Personality column in PARADE Magazine, Cameron’s therapist provided her with a combination of aromatherapy, acupuncture and massage.


While the benefits of massage and acupuncture have been documented, aromatherapy does not have the significant research to back the health benefit claims.

To rectify this lack of evidence, scientists at Ohio State University set out to determine whether or not aromatherapy was legit. They tested the physiological and mental affects of the two most popular scents—lemon and lavender—on 56 healthy men and women.

Unfortunately for aromatherapists, their study found that neither of the oils had any impact in terms of increasing immunity, healing power or pain control. The good news for the aromaphiles, however, is that they did find that lemon scents seemed to improve the participants’ mood.

The testing was conducted over a period of 3 days and involved taping scented cotton balls below the participants’ noses and then recording changes in blood chemistry, mood, blood pressure, heart rates and reaction to pain. Upon completion of the study, it was determined that neither aroma had any impact on any of the biochemical markers for stress, pain control or wound healing, nor were blood pressure or heart rate affected.

Does this mean that aroma therapy does not work?

Not necessarily, according to William Malarkey (really!), professor of internal medicine and one of the study’s designers.

“This is probably the most comprehensive study ever done in this area, but the human body is infinitely complex,” Malarkey says. “If an individual patient uses these oils and feels better, there’s no way we can prove it doesn’t improve that person’s health.”

So, does aromatherapy work? The answer is a resounding “maybe!”

Information for this article was drawn from: “Aromatherapy May Make You Feel Good, But It Won’t Make You Well, Study Shows,” ScienceDaily.

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