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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Aromatherapy Get's More Validation by Scientific Inquiry Every Day

by Erica Allen
Aromatherapy Use in History

The use of infused aromatic plant oils as a means to restore as well as maintain wellness has been used for centuries. Coined as the term "aromatherapy" since the 1930s, this therapeutic medicinal practice of using essential oil continues to be used for both physical and emotional needs. Aromatherapy is fast becoming a noted and requested therapy in many parts of the world.

Application of Aromatherapy

The approach to realign the body is mostly through inhalation, direct contact absorption and to a lesser degree ingestion of the essential oil either as a dilute or for some mild oils undiluted. With inhalation, the oils are thought to penetrate the bloodstream via lungs to activate the limbic system and emotional centers of the brain. When applied to the skin (usually in a carrier oil), they activate thermal receptors and kill pathogens (such as bacteria and fungi). If taken orally, essential oils are thought to activate the immune system.

Confirmation in Modern Science

In western culture, validation of medical therapies comes through empirical research. Rising popularity of aromatherapy with main-stream society has prompted researchers to take a closer look at this ancient therapy. Although still largely unproven by a wide breadth of research, preliminary studies, both in vitro and clinical, show positive effects using this medicinal therapy.

Cancer: Aromatherapy is used as mainly a supportive care for people with cancer, specifically for increased sense of well-being and to offset nausea associated with standard cancer treatments. According to the National Cancer Institute, few peer-reviewed studies show a significant difference helping patients with cancer despite an increase in its use by patients. Reviewed studies call for more in-depth research to be conducted.

Immune Booster: At the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, Italy (2008), researchers looked at the influence of eucalyptus essential oil on the monocytic/macrophagic system - one of the primary defenses of the immune system against pathogen attacks. Results indicated that eucalyptus is able to stimulate a cell-mediated immune response, prompting the possibility of developing a new group of immuno-regulatory agents.

Anxiety: Laboratory results (using animals) indicate statistically significant differences when aromatherapy was applied. Clinical trials are few. Yet, one joint review by the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria, United Kingdom (2006), looked at the pharmacology of essential oils and found evidence that essential oils exert measurable psychological effects in humans. Researchers concluded that aromatherapy provides a potentially effective treatment for a range of psychiatric disorders, especially since the side effects are minimal (if non-existent) compared to conventional psychotropic drugs.

Pathogens: Due to rising concern over antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, much investigative work has been done on the efficacy of essential oils to counter these mutating microbes. Most published studies have found that topical applications of essential oils have significant antimicrobial activity.

Concluding Thoughts

Recent science studies indicate that aromatherapy is effective for conditions such as anxiety, depression and boosting cellular immune functions. In many of the studies reviewed, scientists are suggesting further research (rather than dismissing) for possible uses of essential oils as an alternative or complement to conventional medical practices. What has been used for centuries might soon find its place amongst hospitals and medical offices world-wide. The evolution of plant phytochemicals over millennia has served in the preservation of their species. It is likely that such chemicals will be soon sought after on a larger scale for human survival as well.


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