Aromatherapy - any studies?

As I’ve mentioned before, I work part-time as a Massage Therapist. One of the things that most clients expect is nicely scented massage oils, and I’ve gotten a very good response from custom blends with essential oils.

I know there are a lot of aromatherapy claims made, many of them dubious; some people go so far as to claim that various essential oils can cure diseases. I’ve never seen any supporting evidence on that (pretty much the exact opposite), so I use them based on the following theory:

Hey, they smell good.

However, I did start wondering about something. I know that many plants have medicinal purposes, and there is precious little information about the possible side effects of essential oils. Does anyone know of a site with actual scientific data (not wild unfounded claims) about possible benefits, detriments, or drug interactions of any essential oils? I’d like to continue using them, but I don’t want to use anything that might be unsafe for my clients. I did a web search, and got zillions of companies that wanted to sell oils to me and lots of sites promoting use, but nothing with any reliable data.

Since I am neither a doctor nor a pharmacist, any …um… basic information would be very useful. Anybody got anything? Help!

Lots of essential oils shouldn’t be used by pregnant women because they can induce miscarriage. Do a search on “essential oil pregnancy miscarriage” and the more scientific (and less commerce minded) sites should come up.

I like the various scents of oils and incense and good smells make me feel better. I burn incense a lot in my home just for the fragrance, preferring it to over the counter things like those you stick in electrical sockets with scented oils or twist open to expose a stinky cone of jell. I love scented candles. I used to make scented candles with scented oils.

You can buy essential oils from herbalists and they usually know what precautions to take with them. Some can be irritating if not used in the right proportions. Check with an herbalist or try looking up ‘essential oils’ on the net.

Do you mean ingested, applied topically or smelled?

Good lord, LongRoad, you didn’t read the OP at all, did you?

Let me be a little more specific here. Out of six clients last week, one had severe rheumatiod arthritis, one had muscular dystrophy, one had epilepsy, and two were on Prozac. The most severe case, the girl with arthritis, was more than willing to put me in touch with her physician and her rheumatologist so I could speak to them briefly before working on her. The woman who had epilepsy would barely consent to admit that she had it - but before I take on a new client, I take a very short medical history and ask them to sign a release. (I have liability insurance, but let’s not pretend it’s a bulletproof shield.)

In strictly practical terms, I can’t spend time looking up each condition on a case-by-case basis. (“Thanks, Mrs. Smith. You go ahead and get on the table - I’m just going to step into the other room and do an hour or two of research.”) I also can’t expect to take too much time from their doctors. Thus the need for a fairly comprehensive site (or publication).

Ingested for sure, but I was led to believe that some are so potent (rosemary and pennyroyal) that all direct contact should be avoided, which includes skin contact and inhaling. I could be wrong about that (see below.)

Here’s a link to a site I found that give a bit of background on the aromatherapy movement and some benefits & precautions. My favorite part is this:

In other words, the smelly crap they’re trying to fleece you for at Bath and Body works ain’t worth a darn. (And is a serious ripoff to boot.),1525,664,00.html

This site has some interesting takes on the “myths” of essential oils and addresses the miscarriage issue by dismissing it for skin contact or inhaling, but has several cases noted of miscarriage/abortion by ingestion. (Somewhat sloppily cited at the end.)

I sell products containing essential oils and like to warn people of possible complications just in case. Can’t be too careful. (When I was researching Lavender for my newsletter I came across a site featuring a woman who seemed to be regarded as the expert on all things aromathery, but I can’t seem to find it now and her name eludes me.)

The Skeptic’s Dictionary, run by Prof. Robert Carroll of Sacramento City College, California, is a very good place to start searching for any questionable topic:


Also Quackwatch:


Just in case you miss the link reference, here is a more direct link to the desired Quackwatch page:


Actually, Quackwatch was among the sites I checked before I posted. They do refute the more excessive claims, but don’t provide any data at all regarding interaction or safety of use.

Please note that I haven’t made any claims to my clients other than that the oils smell nice. However, melted butter smells great but it isn’t a good idea to pour it over yourself.

You know something? I find strong scents make me sick and give me headaches. I was looking for one of those plastic eye masks once at The Body Shop because it really does work for migraines, and a sales person told me I should try the aromatherapy pillow. Excuse me? That stuff tends to CAUSE my migraines!

The only scents I can stand are ones that smell like peach, vanilla or cinnamon-and they have to be real like scents, not phony. I also like rose scented things, in moderation.

Sounds good to me . . . :smiley:

But seriously, there are several books about how essential oils interact with the body. Here is one. Maybe the oil molecules don’t interact with our systems as proponents claim, but I’d rather not use some oil on someone who may have a risk factor and, alternatively, for those without the risk factors, what’s the harm? I personally have found great benefit from various uses of lavender essential oil, among others.

seawitch, the book you’re looking for is Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, by Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacks. Tisserand owns one of the most reputable essential oil companies in Europe. I’ve seen the book, and it’s well-done. A review ishere. It’s a bit pricey, but there’s a link to Amazon for a discount.

You can also purchase it from the American Botanical Council. They are an excellent source of information and books on medicinal herbs, and all profits are used to fund education and research projects.

A quick search on essential oil safety found many sites, most rather cursory, but this one seems the most useful of the bunch.

I have some experience with essential oils, and would like to clarify a couple of points. In aromatherapy, it’s the true essential oil of a plant that’s used, not a synthetic fragrance oil. Essential oils are distilled by various means from plant material, and synthetics do not have the same properties, especially for medicinal use. Also, essential oils are extremely concentrated plant extracts, and should be used diluted, in drop measures, with “carrier” oils for topical use, and rarely are to be used internally. There are instances of people confusing essential oils with herbal tinctures, and that teaspoon of difference can have serious adverse results.

With oils used for massage, in a diluted base, there are so many combinations that can be used. I use lavender, rose geranium, ylang ylang, and sandalwood often. Arnica is amazing for sore muscles. That’s anectdotal, but Tisserand’s book is the necessary one for professional use. Hope I’ve helped ya

Had a bit of a coding problem: The link to the most useful site should be"] here.


Well, I cannot seem to get this right, after a seemingly easy go at it.

This is what was s’posed to be…