Sniffing out the truth about aromatherapy

By • Published: May 6th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The verdict is in: Lemon and lavender essential oils have the power to make fragrant candles and sachets for your bedroom. But do these popular aromatherapy agents pack the curative oomph to make it into your medicine cabinet?

According to a new study, the answer is no. Ohio State University researchers found that when it comes to healing wounds, managing pain and boosting immunity, lemon and lavender are all smell and no action.

In aromatherapy, plant extracts are used to improve mood and restore energy. Many practitioners also use them as alternative treatments for wounds and other health problems. For example, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy touts peppermint oil’s ability to soothe indigestion and muscle aches and claims tea tree oil can calm fungal infections like athlete’s foot.

Ohio State scientists took a closer look at lemon and lavender, two of the top ten essential oils. Lemon is purported to aid wound and infection healing while lavender is used for wounds and burns.

The researchers conducted psychological and medical tests to study how inhaling lemon, lavender or distilled water affected participants. Blood samples were tested to measure chemical biomarkers linked to healing and pain.

Although lemon did prove to be a mood-booster, neither extract showed any medically therapeutic benefit.

Could the results have been better if researchers had used different oils or tried applying them to the skin? Aromatherapy supporters say you shouldn’t sniff at the notion. Health experts, meanwhile, say more studies are needed before they smell success.