The Importance of Aromatherapy (Argumentative Essay)
The popularity of natural treatments, remedies, and alternative medicines has surged within the last few years because of assumptions that natural alternative medicines are safer than conventional medicines. An example of one of the fastest-growing alternative medicine practices is aromatherapy, as the market value is predicted to double by 2029 (“Aromatherapy Market”). Aromatherapy is a practice where people use essential oils, which are concentrated plant extracts, to elevate moods, suppress symptoms, or for their pleasant scent. Advocates of aromatherapy believe the oils can cure diseases like diabetes, Ebola, and even cancer. On the other hand, skeptics claim essential oils are only useful for a pleasant aroma, having no capabilities to impact health. As the popularity of aromatherapy increases, the belief that essential oils are capable of curing illnesses and diseases has become widespread. Although aromatherapy can help reduce short-term symptoms, they are not capable of curing people and these false claims are misleading and potentially harmful.
Before addressing this controversial issue, it must be understood how aromatherapy became recognized as a medicinal substitute. Ancient Egyptians commonly used fragrances in religious ceremonies, as offerings to gods, and in magical demonstrations (“Aromatherapy” Alliance). From the beginning of their recorded use, people regarded essential oils as sacred elements, having mystical properties. Similarly, today people believe oils have almost a magical effect, assuming they are capable of curing diseases. It was not just Egypt that incorporated oils in their lives, but China and India used essential oils medicinally to cure headaches, dizziness, colds, and for overall well-being (“Aromatherapy” Alliance). Although no scientific proof had confirmed their claims about oils, people concluded they had the power to cure. Likewise, today there is little to no proof essential oils are safe but people continue to advocate for their healing properties. Over time, several cultures contributed to the rise of essential oils and started their popularity.
Society’s current belief in the healing properties of essential oils is inspired by two historical figures, Hippocrates and Gattefossé. Hippocrates, a Greek physician known as “the father of modern medicine,” was adamant plants contain properties to cure illness. At the time, the Greeks relied on magic to cure their sickness, instead, Hippocrates used a modern and logical approach by incorporating plants into his practice. In fact, he depended on natural remedies so much that he used 300 plant extracts to cure his patients (Sumner 18). Because Hippocrates is a respectable physician, people believed his natural plant extracts were a remedy for illness. Hippocrates was one of the first physicians to incorporate oils into his practice, but one of the first to document a physical change from oils was René-Maurice Gattefossé. The French chemist, Gattefossé, experienced a deep burn after a fatal lab accident. After receiving the severe burn, he immediately submerged his hand in lavender oil because it was the only substance nearby. As the tale goes, his hand miraculously healed instantaneously, and he discovered essential oils have healing properties. Gattefossé provided society with claims that essential oils are useful for external cures, as well as two books on the topical use of essential oils (Manion and Widder e154). Although Gattefossé might have documented his experience, there is no scientific proof this event happened. Due to influential people like Hippocrates and Gattefossé, the world’s curiosity grew about oils and their properties.
Just as it is important to understand where the beliefs of essential oil properties originated, it is essential to understand the composition of essential oils before discussing the issue. According to Chelsea R. Manion and Rebecca M. Widder, both pharmacists from Cedarville University, the most common form of oil extraction is distillation. The distillation process occurs when boiling water passes through a plant, extracting only necessary components for essential oils. The remaining substance is referred to as “neat oils,” meaning they are in their purest form. Oils in neat form cause irritation to the skin thus, they are usually diluted with oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, or almond oil. Depending on the concentration and oil type, different reactions may be caused on the skin (e154-e155). Understanding irritation may occur is important because many people blindly use oils without knowing they could harm them. Comprehending how essential oils are made is helpful to understand how the oils are meant to be used.
Essential oils are frequently used in these three ways, topically, inhalation, and ingestion, each having different application methods and concerns. A journal in the American Journal of Health explains several of the methods of use. Massaging or applying topically is the most popular aromatherapy administration method, occurring when essential oils are rubbed onto the skin, allowing them to seep through the skin’s surface and into the bloodstream. Once the oils are circulating in the bloodstream, they are assumed to be effective for altering moods, increasing well-being, and more. Even when diluted, oils may irritate the skin when used too frequently. The second administration method is inhalation, breathing in the oils either by a diffuser or by smelling the bottle. Next, the essential oils travel up to the brain to create an effect on mood (Manion and Widder e156). The last method is ingestion, consuming essential oils by placing them on the tongue or preparing them in food.