Even though some forms of aromatherapy have been in use for many hundreds of years, there has been little scientific evidence that it actually works. With the advent of aromatherapy alternative medicine practices in recent years, the majority of the medical community scoffed at the idea, mainly due to the lack of clinical research. However, with a growing following and more practical scientific evidence, the trend may be to start including aromatherapy in treatments for different ailments.
Aromatherapy can be used in a variety of different ways with concentrated plant oils being massaged into the skin, inhaled, or added to bath water. In theory, the smells trigger the limbic system in the brain which is supposed to produce a range of therapeutic effects, from relaxation to pain management.
Traditionally, aromatherapy has been used to treat a wide range of conditions including stress, anxiety, headaches, asthma, and even cancer. History on aromatherapy shows that is has been used since medieval times for everything from promoting courage to helping insomnia to determining one’s true love.
Although some research has shown positive results, scientific evidence is inconclusive as to how effective alternative aromatherapy medicine is and how much may just be a placebo effect.
Aromatherapy has been shown to help reduce agitation in people suffering from Alzheimer’s, with another study showing evidence that some oils could help prevent epileptic fits. Many people swear by the tension relieving effects of aromatherapy, though no scientific link has been made to any direct effect on the brain.
Some groups have started to look specifically at how alternative therapies like aromatherapy can be integrated into mainstream care. One such group is the National Center of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine whose goal is to integrate alternative medicine into practical mainstream use. One example of this is the use of aromatherapy as a pain management tool for patients recovering from surgery.
Complementary medicine are therapies that are used together with conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is used to replace conventional medicine, such as using regulated diet and herbs in place of pharmaceutical drugs. Groups like NCCAM strive to combine the traditional medical therapies with those complimentary and alternative therapies that have scientific evidence to back up their safety and effectiveness.
In early 2001, the group held a conference in London to discuss goals and the practicality of integrating non traditional therapies into the mainstream. Among the attendees were lead investigators and spokespersons of integrative medicine and research from both the United States and the United Kingdom. The goal was to share knowledge and discuss the development of complementary and alternative medicines in such ways that would best benefit the medical community.
While the two countries did have differences of opinions throughout the conference, they were able to find common ground and discuss progress and findings with each other. The general movement was away from competing for patients between the two types of healing towards a unity and cooperation that would enhance quality of life for patients.
More and more doctors are becoming open to the idea of using alternative therapies in conjunction with medical treatments, and are starting to successfully incorporate both traditional and nontraditional methods into their practices.
Aromatherapy usage is not limited to the human medical field either. Veterinarians are also investigating non traditional therapies to aide our pets with their ailments as well.
As doctors become more aware of alternative therapies and scientific evidence continues to back up their use, it is highly likely that we will start to see a more holistic approach to medicine in general. This will likely generate an increase in the use of aromatherapy alternative medicine, essential oils, herbs, acupuncture, and the like in every day treatments for a variety of discomforts.