Aromatherapy Research

Why it is needed

This is a tough and sensitive issue to tackle.  Most of the out-of-date and obscure 'studies' done in the name of aromatherapy and poorly-referenced in the books are the main reason I have created this website. As a scientist (horticulturist) and journalist I am appalled at the lack of proper referencing of cited studies (or just plain unreferenced statements) in the books.

In addition, often contradictory information about the use and properties of an essential oil can be found on the same page (numerous instances in Sylla Shepard-Hangar's The Aromatherapy Practioner Reference Manual).  For $125 you get lists of chemical components (accurate, for the most part), lists of traditional and esoteric uses (mostly taken from herbalism, a big mistake) and a dumpster-style listing of uses for the skin, respiratory, cardio, etc. systems that is so fraught with contradictions and lack of application information to be useless. If that isn't bad enough, nowhere in the charts will the reader find the linked reference information to the mostly-out-of-date citations in the bibliography.

What good is it for the potential AT practitioner/researcher to read that sweet fennel EO is 'powerful on neuromuscular spasms-paralysis' (CHART 225) when that interesting, outlandish tidbit is not cited? In addition, a number of the oils she lists are not available, and have not been for years. There simply is no market for them, but in throwing together the Manual, she did not check that fact.

I chose that "Manual" as an example (you can find others on the 'bad books' page, still under construction) because folks are shelling out $125 for a book that seems to thumb its nose at scientific responsibility, writing ethics, and any sense of shame. Not to single Shepard-Hanger out as the only guilty party, as most books are not publishing relevant or accurate research information, although they may appear to do so. They are merely regurgitating plagiarized information, extrapolated fantasies, and author's flights of fancy based on herbal uses of plants.

The various aromatherapy organizations and schools that sell memberships, certifications, diplomas and other forms of justification for someone to call themselves an aromatherapist do not fund nor encourage research. They sell the fairy-tale books and high-priced workshops and on-line courses.

In their favor, many do, for the most part, teach essential oil safety, basic anatomy and physiology and other useful information. If anyone is interested in studying aromatherapy, they have the basic information, but be aware they do no research themselves, either to break new ground, or to verify the information they are teaching.  As with anything you put out money for, buyer beware, especially since the information you are paying for is unverified research on potentially dangerous solvents (essential oils) that you will be breathing in, putting on your body, or in rare instances, ingesting. It's your life, be careful.

Who's doing research

No aromatherapy 'schools' are.
No aromatherapy organizations are.
No practicing aromatherapists are. (at least they aren't publishing, except in aromatherapy journals, that are not peer-reviewed by complimentary scientific disciplines, so I am not counting them.)
I would love to be contradicted on this, and I would gladly add the information regarding any doing research.

These folks are conducting essential oil research, although not 'aromatherapy' per se:

Sense of Smell Institute is a great resource
The Jacob Smell Research Laboratory
Olfaction -- technical site, lots of great links
Pub Med (formerly Medline)   -- great source for free searches. Just type in 'essential oils' or 'volatile oils', or the name of a specific oil you are interested in to read abstracts of research studies. Please be advised that much research is done 'in vitro' (in a petrie dish) not 'in vivo' (on people) so it is hard, if not impossible, to extrapolate the data to declare that the substance will perform in such a manner on humans.)
Internet Online Library -- abstracts of some professional and some amateur research on AT.
Aromacaring (formerly Aromasense) -- sometimes this site makes sense, sometimes its fairy tales counter its credibility.

This page is still under construction. Please email me with other research sources, and I will gladly add them, as it can only benefit the aromatherapy community.