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 Bach's Flower and Aroma Therapy - Fiori di Bach e Aromaterapia

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Maschile Capra
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MessaggioOggetto: Bach's Flower and Aroma Therapy - Fiori di Bach e Aromaterapia   Lun 21 Set 2009 - 6:56


Bach flower therapy
Bach flower therapy is a type of homeopathic aromatherapy developed in the 1930s by British physician Edward Bach (1886-1936). Bach claimed to have psychically or intuitively discovered the healing effects of 38 wildflowers. His "discoveries" were arrived at by "inspirations." For example, while on a walk he had an inspiration that dew drops on a plant heated by the sun would absorb healing properties from the plant. He claimed that all he needed to do was hold a flower or taste a petal and he could intuitively grasp its healing powers. From these intuitions he went on to prepare "essences" using pure water and plants.
Bach claimed that these wildflowers have a soul or energy with an affinity to the human soul. The flower's spiritual energy is transferable to water. Devotees drink a homeopathic concoction of flower essence, mineral water and brandy in order to get the flower soul to harmonize their own soul's energy. According to Desde San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo of Uruguay, flower remedies "do work." Bach thought that illness is the result of "a contradiction between the purposes of the soul and the personality's point of view." This internal war leads to negative moods and energy blocking, which causes a lack of "harmony" which leads to physical diseases. "Each of the 38 flowers of the Bach system is used to balance specific emotional pains or, in advanced stages of the lack of balance, to remit physical symptoms" [personal correspondence]. I have no idea what is meant by saying that this therapy "works," but I do not see how it could be tested since its main claims are metaphysical not empirical.
Dr. Bach seems tame compared to the pioneering work of others who have followed in his petals. In California it has been discovered that the humble Forget-Me-Not is good for "increasing your awareness of karmic relationships beyond the threshold." And Mugwort is good "for awareness of dreams and conscious control of one's psychic life."*
See also aromatherapy and homeopathy.
reader comments
further reading
Mystical Medical Alternativism
Questionable Self-help Products - Quackwatch
The Dr. Edward Bach Foundation

Aromatherapy is a term coined by French chemist René Maurice Gattefossé in the 1920's to describe the practice of using essential oils taken from plants, flowers, roots, seeds, etc., in healing. The term is a bit misleading, since the aromas of oils, whether natural or synthetic, are generally not themselves therapeutic. Aromas are used to identify the oils, to determine adulteration, and to stir the memory, but not to directly bring about a cure or healing. It is the "essence" of the oil--its chemical properties--that gives it whatever therapeutic value the oil might have. Furthermore, vapors are used in some but not all cases of aromatherapy. In most cases, the oil is rubbed onto the skin or ingested in a tea or other liquid. Some aromatherapists even consider cooking with herbs a type of aromatherapy.
The healing power of essential oils is the main attraction in aromatherapy. It is also the main question for the skeptic. There is very little evidence for all the claims made by aromatherapists regarding the various healing properties of oils. Most of the support for the healing power of such substances as tea tree oil is in the form of anecdotes such as the following:
In the plane on my way to India [from Europe] a few years ago, my index finger began throbbing violently. A rose thorn had lodged in it two days before, as I pruned my roses. It was now turning septic. I straight away applied tea tree oil undiluted to the finger. By the time I arrived in Bangalore, the swelling had almost gone and the throbbing had stopped (Daniele Ryman, Aromatherapy).
This kind of post hoc reasoning abounds in the literature of alternative health care. What would be more convincing would be some control studies such as the following:
Professor Tomas Riley of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Washington has published a paper in [blah blah scientific journal] which demonstrates that tea tree oil kills many bacteria present in common infections, including some staphylococci and streptococci.*
When references are made to other aromatherapists, they are usually of the following type:
Marguerite Maury prescribed rose for frigidity, ascribing aphrodisiac properties to it. She also considered rose a great tonic for women who were suffering from depression (Daniele Ryman, Aromatherapy, p, 205).
Such testimonials are never met with skepticism or even curiosity as to what evidence there is for them. They are just passed on as if they were articles of faith.
Besides personal experience, the only kind of research aromatherapists seem interested in is in reading what other aromatherapists have said or believed about plants or oils. The practitioners and salespersons of aromatherapeutic products seem singularly uninterested in scientific testing of their claims, many of which are empirical and could be easily tested. Of course, there are many aromatherapists who make non-testable claims, such as claims regarding how certain oils will affect their "subtle body," bring balance to their chakra, restore harmony to their energy flow, return one to their center, or contribute to spiritual growth. Aromatherapy is said to restore or enhance mental, emotional, physical or spiritual health. Such claims are essentially non-testable. They are part of New Age mythology and can't really engender any meaningful discussion or debate.
When aromatherapists get into professional debates about empirical matters it is generally over such matters as whether natural oils are superior to synthetic ones, though even here references to scientific studies of the issue are sought in vain. The way aromatherapist Daniele Ryman, a defender of natural oils, treats the subject of "lavender" is typical. In her book, Aromatherapy, she gives some botanical and historical information about the plant, including a claim by Matthiole, a 16th century botanist, that lavender is a panacea which can cure epilepsy, apoplexy and mental problems. She tells us that the principal constituents of lavender are alcohols such as borneol, geraniol and linalool; esters such as geranyle and linalyl; and terpents such as pinene and limonene. Lavender also contains a high percentage of phenol, a strong antiseptic and antibiotic. She also notes that while many essential oils are very toxic, lavender is one of the least toxic of all oils. Then she tells us that lavender is "the oil most associated with burns and healing of the skin." She says lavender is "very effective in treating cystitis, vaginitis, and leucorrhea." Furthermore, as an herbal tea, lavender "is also good as a morning tonic for convalescents, as a digestive after meals, for rheumatic conditions, and at the first appearance of a cold or flu." To prevent varicose veins, Ryman advises that you "massage the legs with an oil consisting of 3 drops cypress oil, 2 drops each of lavender and lemon oil, and 1 ounce of soy oil" (p. 143). Nowhere does she give any indication that anyone anywhere has done any control studies with lavender to test any of these claims. Now, it's true that expressions such as 'very effective' and 'is good' are not very precise, but they are not complete weaslers like 'helps' (which is what she says lavender in your bath will do for cellulite). And 'most associated' with burns doesn't actually say that it will do any good for burns. Still, I think these claims can be made precise enough to test, though I doubt if Ryman or most other aromatherapists have any interest in doing such tests.
For some reason, Ryman doesn't say much about lavender's use to reduce stress in her chapter on lavender. However, in a section on "Insomnia" she says that "lavender is a gentle narcotic, recommended for mental and physical strain." There has been a study done, not mentioned by Ryman, which compared the effects on intensive care patients of aromatherapy using lavender, massage therapy and rest. The study concluded that rest was best (Dunn).
I would not reject aromatherapy out of hand, however. When I have a cold and a stuffy nose, I'll use Vicks VapoRub, a mixture of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil. Strictly speaking, I suppose I am a practicing aromatherapist. However, when I look at what people who call themselves aromatherapists claim, I have to conclude that aromatherapy is a mostly a pseudoscientific alternative medical therapy. It is a mixture of folklore, trial and error, anecdote, testimonial, New Age spiritualism and fantasy. What aromatherapy lacks is a knack for sniffing out non-sense.
See also alternative health practice and Bach's flower therapy.
reader comments
further reading
books and articles
Dunn, C. et al. "Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and periods of rest in an intensive care unit," Journal of Advanced Nursing, 21, 1995, pp 34-40.
McCutcheon, Lynn. "What's That I Smell? The Claims of Aromatherapy," Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 1996.
Raso, Jack. "Alternative" Healthcare: A Comprehensive Guide (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994).
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Maschile Capra
Numero di messaggi : 2141
Data d'iscrizione : 04.02.09
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Bach's Flower and Aroma Therapy - Fiori di Bach e Aromaterapia   Lun 21 Set 2009 - 6:57

Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function by Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser et al., Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 33, Issue 3, April 2008, Pages 328-339.
Aromatherapy: Making Dollars out of Scents by Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Scents and Nonsense: Does Aromatherapy Stink? by Cheryl A. Sweet
news story
Can Light and Aromatherapy Treat Dementia?


Aromatherapy: Making Dollars out of Scents
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Aromatherapy -- sometimes called aroma therapy -- is described by its proponents as "the therapeutic use of the essential oils of plants." The word "essential" does not refer to nutritional value but to the volatile, aromatic components that are the "essence" of the plant. Essential oils are said to be highly concentrated substances extracted from flowers, leaves, stalks, fruits, and roots, and also distilled from resins. They are alleged to contain hormones, vitamins, antibiotics, and antiseptics and to represent the "life force," "spirit," or "soul" of the plant [1]. The oils are administered in small quantities through inhalation, massage, or other applications to the skin. Occasionally, a product is taken internally. The products include diffusers, lamps, pottery, candles, pendants, earrings, shampoos, skin creams, lotions, and bath salts, and shower gels. Health Foods Business estimated that the total of aromatherapy products sold through health-food stores was about $59 million in 1995 and $105 million in 1996.
Pleasant odors can be enjoyable and may enhance people's efforts to relax. However, there is no evidence that aromatherapy products provide the health benefits claims by their proponents.
Dubious Claims
Aroma Vera, Inc., of Los Angeles, has falsely claimed that "essential oils have the power to purify the air we breathe while they relax, stimulate, soothe or sharpen our senses . . . a wonderful antidote to the air pollution and 'scentsory' imbalance of modern life." It also claims that inhaling the scents "balances the biological background," "revitalizes the cells," and produces a "strong energizing effect on the sympathetic nervous system." Other claims in the company's brochures include:
Product Name Features/Claimed Benefits
Calming Lends a slight sense of euphoria - perfect for unwinding after a stressful day
Clear Mind Freshens and sharpens the mind, making it more alert
Drainer/Detoxification Promotes elimination of toxins, helps tone and firm the body
Meditation Facilitates deep relaxation
Mental Power Designed for sustained intellectual power and focus
Purifier Ideal to rid the atmosphere of smoke and heavy odors
Respiration Helps open the lungs and clear respiration
Sacred Helps open higher energy centers
Slimming/Circulation Promotes circulation and encourages elimination of excess fluids
Joint Adventure, of Rogers, Arkansas, states that essential oils can be used for "many different purposes from athlete's foot to enlightenment and almost every point between!" The products in its 1997 catalog include Love Potion, Germ Immune, and Smoker's Remedy. Its Tropical Sun is claimed to "Increase circulation and warm your body . . . helps fight infection while strengthening the immune system."
Another company touts aromatherapy's promise as "a mood alternative, as biofeedback tied in to relaxation, stress release, concentration and meditation." Yet another describes the oils as "an alternative to synthetic drugs to feel good." A practitioner has claimed that the technique "addresses the nervous system and the energy fields of the body. It soothes the body, cleans the body, clears the body, and tones the body." The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, by Valerie Ann Worwood, states that there are about 300 essential oils and that they constitute an extremely effective medical system. The web site of Beyond Aromatherapy has stated (allegedly quoting Hippocrates) "There is a remedy for every illness to be found in nature." Its online catalog includes descriptions of "ancient healing uses," astrological correspondence, and Chinese medicine characteristics of more than 80 essential oils.
Lampberger Singapore Network says its products can provide "sweet childhood," "summer romance," "aphrodisiac, and improved memory and can alleviate asthma, bronchitis, flu, insomnia, headache, agitation, elevated blood pressure,
Aromatherapy for Common Ailments, by Shirley Price, tabulates which oils are to be used for more than 40 problems, including depression, sex-drive problems, bronchitis, athlete's foot, high blood pressure, cystitis, head lice. Her table identifies from three to nine oils "likely to help" each problem. She reassures:
With self-help aromatherapy, you will be using oils recommended for a particular ailment or preventative treatment, but it should not take you long to discover which of them work best for you as an individual, particularly since simply liking the aroma of an oil may indicate that it will help you.
The Aromatherapy Workbook charts more than one hundred therapeutic applications. Author Marcel Lavabre maintains:
Even though it can relieve symptoms, aromatherapy primarily aims at curing the causes of disease. The main therapeutic action of essential oils consists in strengthening the organs and their functions, and acting on the defense mechanisms of the body. They do not do the job for the body; they help the body do its own job and thus do not weaken the organism. Their action is enhanced by all natural therapies that aim to restore the vitality of the individual.
Dubious "Certification"
The American Alliance of Aromatherapy, a trade association, publishes a quarterly Journal of Aromatherapy to keep readers informed of pertinent research, books, and news. The American Aromatherapy Association offers "certification" based on attendance at two 3-day weekends plus submission of a thesis that includes case studies. The course includes such topics as internal methods of treatment, essential oils in healing, addressing common health problems, and how to market yourself. The International Association of Aromatherapists has "accredited" an eleven-month correspondence course with six seminars and two final exams. Completion of the program leads to "certification" as an "Aromatherapist Practitioner." Aromatherapy Seminars, the educational division of Aroma Vera, offers "5-day certification" and other courses and claims to have over 3,500 graduates. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy sponsors conferences and publishes Scentsitivity Quarterly.
Insufficient Regulation
The FDA regulates perfumes as cosmetics, which it defines as "articles to be introduced into or otherwise applied to the body to cleanse, beautify, promote attractiveness or alter appearance." A general claim that a perfume's aroma is good or beneficial is a cosmetic claim that does not require FDA approval. In 1986, the agency warned that marketing a scent with a preventive or therapeutic claim would make the product a drug subject to regulatory action. Although several manufacturers have done so, the FDA has not made them stop.
A private action may have some impact. Under California law, any person or organization can sue to stop the fraudulent activities of any person or company either located in California or affecting the state's consumers. These suits are interesting because if the defendant cannot persuade a judge that its claims are true, the judge can prohibit them and assess high penalties. In 1997, Los Angeles attorney Morsé Mehrban charged that Lafabre and Aroma Vera had violated the California Business and Professions Code by advertising that its products could promote health and well-being, relax the body, relax the mind, enhance mood, purify the air, are antidotes to air pollution, relieve fatigue, tone the body, nourish the skin, promote circulation, alleviate feminine cramps, and do about 50 other things [2]. The National Council Against Health Fraud served as plaintiff, and I served as an expert witness in the case. In September 2000, the case was settled out of court with a $5,700 payment to Mehrban and a court-approved stipulation [3] and order prohibiting the defendants from making 57 of the disputed claims in advertising within California [4].
1. Berwick A. Holistic Aromatherapy: Balance the Body and Soul with Essential Oils. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1994.
2. Barrett S. Aromatherapy company sued for false advertising. Quackwatch, Sept 25, 2000.
3. Stipulation for Judgment. National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc., v. Aroma Vera, Inc., et al. Superior Court No. BC183903. September 24, 2000.
4. Horowitz DA. Judgment (pursuant to stipulation). National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc., v. Aroma Vera, Inc., et al. Superior Court No. BC183903. October 11, 2000.
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Maschile Capra
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Bach's Flower and Aroma Therapy - Fiori di Bach e Aromaterapia   Lun 21 Set 2009 - 6:57


Scents and Nonsense: Does Aromatherapy Stink?

By Cheryl A. Sweet
Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 1997

Publication Date: October 1, 1997
Aromatherapy is a "branch" of herbal medicine that centers on using fragrant substances, particularly oily plant extracts, to alter mood or to improve individuals' health or appearance. The alleged benefits of aromatherapy range from stress relief to enhancement of immunity and the unlocking of "emotions from past experiences." But skeptics cite a lack of credible supportive studies published in reputable scientific or medical journals.
Scents of Well-Being?
"Aromatherapy" is a buzzword used by the cosmetics, fragrance, and alternative-medicine industries. Although the method has ancient roots, proponents did not call it "aromatherapy" before the 1930s. This expression derives from the French word aromathérapie, coined by René Maurice Gattefossé, a chemist whose book of the same name was published in 1928. After a lab explosion Gattefossé conveniently plunged his badly burned hand into a vat of lavender oil. He noticed how well it healed, and thus began the development of modern aromatherapy, which French homeopaths Dr. and Mme. Maury revived in the 1960s.
Proponents of aromatherapy maintain that the tools of the trade—wood-resin distillates and flower, leaf, stalk, root, grass, and fruit extracts—contain antibiotics, antiseptics, hormones, and vitamins. Some proponents have characterized essential oils—i.e., oils that are volatile, aromatic, and flammable—as the soul or spirit of plants. Indeed, one of aromatherapy's premises is that essential oils have a "spiritual dimension" and can restore "balance" and "harmony" to one's body and to one's life. One of its principles, the "doctrine of signatures," holds that a plant's visible and olfactory characteristics reveal its "secret" qualities. For example, because the configuration of the violet suggests shyness, proponents hold that the scent of violets engenders calmness and modesty.
Aromatherapy en-compasses topical application of essential oils, bathing in water to which essential oils have been added, sniffing essential oils, and even ingesting them. Products marketed under the "aromatherapy" umbrella are legion, including shaving gels, aftershaves, facial cleansers, bath salts, bath soaps, shower gels, shampoos, hair conditioners, "body masks," moisturizers, sunscreen preparations, lipsticks, deodorants, candles, lamps, diffusers, pottery, massage oils, massage devices (e.g., the Aromassager), and jewelry (e.g., lockets and pendants for carrying essential oils).
"The most common aromatherapy field is aesthetic, the sense of well-being derived from enjoying perfumes, scented candles, baths, and other fragrances," states Jane Buckle, R.N., M.A., who claims the world's first master's degree in clinical aromatherapy (her M.A. degree), from Middlesex University in London. At the opposite end of the spectrum, says Buckle, is medical aromatherapy, also known as aromatic medicine. Practitioners of medical aromatherapy include massage therapists, naturopaths, nurses, and a smattering of medical doctors.
The alleged beneficial effects of aromatherapy are numerous. Proponents claim, for example, that essential oil from lavender or peppermint clears "negative energy"; that essential oil from bergamot normalizes emotions; that essential oil from roses or sandalwood increases confidence; that essential oil from eucalyptus alleviates sorrow; and that patchouli creates a desire for peace. Essential oils can have side effects, however, and even proponents warn about risks. Essential oil from cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger can burn the skin; ingestion of essential oil from pennyroyal can cause miscarriage.
Raphael d'Angelo, M.D., is a Colorado family practitioner who began incorporating aromatherapy into his practice over two years ago. D'Angelo uses eucalyptus oil and peppermint oil adjunctively in treating respiratory disease. He alludes to "studies indicating these oils not only have soothing properties, but reduce mucous production, as well as possessing antiviral and antibacterial properties." But these studies, he adds, were conducted in Europe, and the degree of scrutiny and peer review they underwent was not necessarily as high as the usual degree of such in the United States.
Can You Trust Your Aromatherapist?
Outside the U.S. aromatherapy is widely accepted. In France, medical students are taught how to prescribe essential oils; in Britain, hospital nurses use aromatherapy to treat patients suffering anxiety and depression and to make terminal-care patients more comfortable.
But the science behind aromatherapy is meager, and in the U.S. no legal standards exist concerning education in aromatherapy, certification therein, or the occupational practice of aromatherapy. Dr. d'Angelo is taking courses offered by the Australasian College of Herbal Studies, a nonaccredited correspondence school in Oregon whose six-lesson aromatherapy course leads to a "Certificate in Aromatherapy." The school also offers certificate courses in homeopathy [see Priorities, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1997, p. 45]; Homeobotanical Therapy, which centers on the use of botanical tinctures that purportedly have been prepared homeopathically; and iridology—so-called iris diagnosis. According to Dorene Peterson, the school's principal: "In the last 18 months, we've had a 75 percent increase in aromatherapy students." Peterson holds a "Diploma in Acupuncture" ("Dip ACU") and two degrees: a baccalaureate and a "Diploma in Natural Therapeutics" ("DNT") from New Zealand. She says her school has 400 enrollees, ranging in age from 18 to 68 and including "professionals adjuncting an existing career": medical doctors, registered nurses, licensed massage therapists, and some radiologists. Other students are planning on jobs in beauty salons, in health food stores, and in the fragrance industry.
The American Aromatherapy Association, also nonaccredited and in Oregon, offers certification based on attendance at two three-day meetings and submission of a paper that includes case histories. The association's course covers the use of essential oils as internal remedies. Another nonaccredited organization, the International Association of Aromatherapists, offers an 11-month correspondence course leading to certification as an "Aromatherapist Practitioner."
Business Stinks?
As director of his Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, in Chicago, neurologist and psychiatrist Alan Hirsch, M.D., specializes in treating people with smell disorders. His passion, however, is investigating how odors affect behavior. Hirsch's most attention-getting study focused on whether an odor could affect weight. Hirsch had noticed that, after losing the sense of smell, people's weight increased. He theorized that people would eat less if they were subject to odors more often. For the study, 3,193 people were given an inhaler that imparted an odor somewhat reminiscent of corn chips. At the outset of the study the subjects' average weight was 217 pounds; some subjects weighed nearly 600 pounds. Hirsch found that the more often the subjects sniffed the odor, the more weight they lost. The average weight loss over six months was 30 pounds. Some subjects sniffed the odor more than 200 times daily and lost more than 100 pounds.
Most researchers are skeptical of Hirsch's work. They complain that he doesn't publish in respected scientific journals, that his studies therefore do not undergo rigorous peer review, and that his experiments are not well controlled. Hirsch concedes: "At this point, I wouldn't use aromatherapy myself, as a physician to deal with disease. I don't think we're there yet. If I saw a physician using aromatherapy, rather than tranquilizers, I'd say that's inappropriate at this point." But Hirsch predicts that by 2010 aromatherapy will be a part of mainstream medicine. "In the future, odors may be used to diagnose disease," he says. "If we ever find the odor associated with the greatest impairment, we could potentially use that to diagnose the recurrence of disease."
Hirsch also describes more mundane purposes: "Maybe ten minutes before you wake up in the morning, the alarm clock will spray a scent to make you more alert. You'll go to the kitchen, where an odor will be released to increase or suppress your appetite. Your office may be scented to make you more productive." And at bedtime? "An aroma," he replies, "to make you sleepy—or more amorous."
Observes principal Dorene Peterson of the Australasian College of Herbal Studies: "There is a philosophical difference between hard science and the approach that believes there's vibrational energy that's part of the healing process. Alternative medicine is offered now in quite a number of medical schools. I think a lot of hard-core scientists and doctors who have been trained in that data-oriented scientific approach are realizing there's more to heaven and earth than we really know about." Still, Peterson admits that empirical evidence is necessary for widespread acceptance:

This is such a new area that there are a lot of studies at this point that aren't reproducible. Even though there's been some interesting work done in Japan and Germany, it's one thing to get results once. But it doesn't appear that researchers have been able to duplicate these results again. While I believe there's a scientific basis for aromatherapy, and enough basis to show that physiological reactions occur in the body when individuals inhale certain fragrances, there's also a tremendous range of subjective reasons for reactions. For instance, If someone's had a negative experience with fragrances in the past, and it's caused anxiety, that person will react negatively, even though other people may react positively.
Smell the Roses
Generally, insofar as odors and topical essential-oil preparations are pleasurable, they are healthful. Consumers don't need to be told what smells good. And which odors evoke pleasant thoughts in an individual is knowable only personally. But consumers ought to be told what's risky and what's unfounded. Aromatherapists and marketers of aromatherapy products do not seem reliable sources of such information. Popular and higher-education acceptance of a method is not evidence that the method has therapeutic utility. As a health system, aromatherapy is largely unsubstantiated.
Cheryl A. Sweet is a freelance health writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
(From Priorities, Vol. 9, No. 4)
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Femminile Serpente
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Bach's Flower and Aroma Therapy - Fiori di Bach e Aromaterapia   Lun 12 Dic 2011 - 11:12

Admin aggiungo stralci dei documenti di wikipedia che trattano l'aromaterapia, per completare la lettura dei seguenti articoli si consiglia di visionare la fonte originale.


Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

Le pratiche qui descritte non sono accettate dalla scienza medica, non sono state sottoposte alle verifiche sperimentali condotte con metodo scientifico o non le hanno superate. Potrebbero pertanto essere inefficaci o dannose per la salute. Queste informazioni hanno solo un fine illustrativo. Wikipedia non dà consigli medici: leggi le avvertenze.

L'aromaterapia può essere considerata un ramo della fitoterapia che usa gli olii essenziali, ossia le sostanze volatili e fortemente odoranti delle piante. Gli olii vengono estratti di solito tramite distillazione in corrente di vapore, che una volta raffreddato consente la separazione dell'olio essenziale dall'acqua; nel caso dell'epicarpo dei frutti del genere Citrus) si utilizza anche la spremitura a freddo. Sostanze aromatiche estratte con altre metodologie (estrazione con solventi organici, estrazione con fluidi supercritici) non sono considerate da tutti gli autori come olii essenziali. I cosiddetti olii essenziali ottenuti dissolvendo resine e oleoresine in alcoli sono in realtà definiti come resinoidi [1]; [2]; [3]. Gli oli essenziali sono contenuti in strutture specifiche all'interno di vari organi della pianta. In alcuni casi solo alcuni organi ne sono ricchi, in altri tutti gli organi hanno percentuali significative di olio essenziale, in molti casi la composizione degli oli essenziali in diversi organi della stessa pianta hanno composizione differente. Tra gli organi dai quali si possono ottenere oli essenziali troviamo: foglie, fiori, petali, corteccia, legno, semi, pericarpi, radici [2]; [3]..

Il termine aromaterapia ha significati diversi a seconda dei Paesi in cui viene usato, per esempio in Inghilterra, Russia, negli USA e in Francia. Contrariamente alla vulgata, il termine aromaterapia non identifica esclusivamente l'utilizzo olfattivo degli olii essenziali, bensì comprende tutte le applicazioni: topica (massaggi, impacchi, applicazioni pure), inalatoria e orale. Una definizione generale da tutti accettata potrebbe essere questa: l'utilizzo degli olii essenziali per il mantenimento della salute o per la terapia. Per queste ragioni, e per la scarsezza di dati clinici l'aromaterapia è lontana dal poter essere definita come una vera terapia, con un corpus di testi canonici, modalità riconosciute, curriculum di studio standardizzati, ecc., anche se i materiali utilizzati dalla terapia e alcune delle modalità di utilizzo sono state sottoposte a studi clinici e farmacologici.

Cenni storici

In tutte le culture umane le piante aromatiche hanno goduto di uno status particolarmente importante, probabilmente, ed originariamente proprio per le loro caratteristiche organolettiche, per la loro “salienza percettiva”, che ne ha certamente favorito l'individuazione [4]. Cenni all'utilizzo di resine, piante aromatiche, spezie, incensi ed olii grassi infusi di piante aromatiche si ritrovano nei testi sumerici [5]. Purtuttavia, l'utilizzo a scopo terapeutico degli olii essenziali è molto più recente. Non ci sono infatti indicazioni storiche, letterarie o iconografiche, che indichino la conoscenza degli olii essenziali nell'antichità classica. Nonostante sia probabile che la teoria e la pratica della distillazione fossero conosciute in ambito arabo intorno al 1000 AD, fu solo nell'alto medioevo che questa tecnica fu utilizzata per ottenere gli olii essenziali, e fu solo intorno agli anni venti del XX secolo che il chimico francese René Maurice Gattefosse contribuì alla rinascita dell'interesse per i trattamenti naturali, grazie ai suoi studi sulle proprietà medicinali dell'essenza di lavanda ed alle sue applicazioni ai militari feriti della prima guerra mondiale. Se a Gattefosse viene attribuita l'invenzione del termine "aromaterapia", ad un altro medico francese, Jean Valnet viene riconosciuta l'opera fondamentale per la disciplina, intitolata Aromathérapie e pubblicata nel 1964. [1].

Applicazione diluita

In aromaterapia si usano quasi sempre gli olii essenziali fortemente diluiti in un solvente adeguato, per ridurre i rischi di reazioni avverse, in particolare di reazioni di ipersensibilità; vista la loro forte lipofilicità degli olii essenziali, i solventi più utilizzati sono gli olii grassi e l'alcol. La percentuale di diluizione per una applicazione topica dipenderà: dall'area di pelle interessata (maggiore l'area, minore la percentuale di olio essenziale nel vettore), dalle condizioni della pelle (l'assorbimento transdermico aumenta in caso di pelle lesionata o altrimenti non sana, di pelle fortemente idratata, di pelle detersa e di temperature corporee elevate), dal tipo di olio (olii maggiormente aggressivi, come ad esempio timo, origano, chiodi di garofano, cannella, ecc., devono essere utilizzati a pecentuali minori) e dalla condizione che si desidera trattare.

Effetti collaterali

Gli oli essenziali possono provocare effetti collaterali più o meno importanti in conseguenza della via di assunzione, della quantità, dello specifico olio essenziale assunto, e dell'età, del peso corporeo individuale e di specifiche patologie preesistenti. Gli oli essenziali, comunque assunti, possono portare a fenomeni di:sensibilizzazione, irritazione,tossicità (possibile per via orale anche a dosaggi di alcuni ml).


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person's mind, mood, cognitive function or health.

Some essential oils such as tea tree[1] have demonstrated anti-microbial effects, but there is still a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating efficacy against bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. Evidence for the efficacy of aromatherapy in treating medical conditions remains poor, with a particular lack of studies employing rigorous methodology,[2] however some evidence exists that essential oils may have therapeutic potential.[3]


Aromatherapy may have origins in antiquity with the use of infused aromatic oils, made by macerating dried plant material in fatty oil, heating and then filtering. Many such oils are described by Dioscorides, along with beliefs of the time regarding their healing properties, in his De Materia Medica, written in the first century.[4] Distilled essential oils have been employed as medicines since the invention of distillation in the eleventh century,[5] when Avicenna isolated essential oils using steam distillation.[6]

The concept of aromatherapy was first mooted by a small number of European scientists and doctors, in about[weasel words] 1907. In 1937, the word first appeared in print in a French book on the subject: Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales by René-Maurice Gattefossé, a chemist. An English version was published in 1993.[7] In 1910, Gattefossé burned a hand very badly in a laboratory explosion. The hand developed gas gangrene, which he successfully, and intentionally, treated with lavender oil.[8]

A French surgeon, Jean Valnet, pioneered the medicinal uses of essential oils, which he used as antiseptics in the treatment of wounded soldiers during World War II.[9]


Aromatherapy is the treatment or prevention of disease by use of essential oils. Other stated uses include pain and anxiety reduction, enhancement of energy and short-term memory, relaxation, hair loss prevention, and reduction of eczema-induced itching.[11][12]

Two basic mechanisms are offered to explain the purported effects. One is the influence of aroma on the brain, especially the limbic system through the olfactory system.[13] The other is the direct pharmacological effects of the essential oils.[14] While precise knowledge of the synergy between the body and aromatic oils is often claimed by aromatherapists, the efficacy of aromatherapy remains unproven. However, some preliminary clinical studies of aromatherapy in combination with other techniques show positive effects. Aromatherapy does not cure conditions, but helps the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.[15][16]

In the English-speaking world, practitioners tend to emphasize the use of oils in massage[citation needed]. Aromatherapy tends to be regarded[by whom?] as a complementary modality at best and a pseudoscientific fraud at worst.[17]

Popular uses

Lemon oil is uplifting and anti-stress/anti-depressant. In a Japanese study, lemon essential oil in vapour form has been found to reduce stress in mice.[18] Research at The Ohio State University indicates that Lemon oil aroma may enhance one's mood, and help with relaxation.[19]
Thyme oil[20]
Peppermint oil is often used to deter ants, by applying a few drops on their trail.[21]
Both lavender and tea tree oil are used as antiseptics, sometimes in lotions or soaps. Lavender oil is said to help heal wounds and burns.[22][23]


Some benefits that have been linked to aromatherapy, such as relaxation and clarity of mind, may arise from the placebo effect rather than from any actual physiological effect. The consensus among most medical professionals is that while some aromas have demonstrated effects on mood and relaxation and may have related benefits for patients, there is currently insufficient evidence to support the claims made for aromatherapy.[24] Scientific research on the cause and effects of aromatherapy is limited, although in vitro testing has revealed some antibacterial and antiviral effects.[25][26] There is no evidence of any long-term results from an aromatherapy massage other than the pleasure achieved from a pleasant-smelling massage.[27] A few double blind studies in the field of clinical psychology relating to the treatment of severe dementia have been published.[28][29] Essential oils have a demonstrated efficacy in dental mouthwash products.[30]

Skeptical literature suggests that aromatherapy is based on the anecdotal evidence of its benefits rather than proof that aromatherapy can cure diseases. Scientists and medical professionals acknowledge that aromatherapy has limited scientific support, but critics argue that the claims of most aromatherapy practitioners go beyond the data, and/or that the studies are neither adequately controlled nor peer reviewed.

Some proponents[who?] of aromatherapy believe that the claimed effect of each type of oil is not caused by the chemicals in the oil interacting with the senses, but because the oil contains a distillation of the "life force" of the plant from which it is derived that will "balance the energies" of the body and promote healing or well-being by "purging negative vibrations" from the body's "energy field". Arguing that there is no scientific evidence that healing can be achieved, and that the claimed "energies" even exist, many skeptics reject this form of aromatherapy as pseudoscience.

Safety concerns

In addition, there are potential safety concerns. Because essential oils are highly concentrated they can irritate the skin when used in undiluted form.[31] Therefore, they are normally diluted with a carrier oil for topical application. Phototoxic reactions may occur with citrus peel oils such as lemon or lime.[32] Also, many essential oils have chemical components that are sensitisers (meaning that they will after a number of uses cause reactions on the skin, and more so in the rest of the body). Some of the chemical allergies could even be caused by pesticides, if the original plants are cultivated.[33][34] Some oils can be toxic to some domestic animals, with cats being particularly prone.[35][36]

Two common oils, lavender and tea tree, have been implicated in causing gynaecomastia, an abnormal breast tissue growth, in prepubescent boys, although the report which cites this potential issue is based on observations of only three boys (and so is not a scientific study), and two of those boys were significantly above average in weight for their age, thus already prone to gynaecomastia.[37] A child hormone specialist at the University of Cambridge claimed "... these oils can mimic estrogens" and "people should be a little bit careful about using these products."[38] The study has been criticised on many different levels by many authorities. The Aromatherapy Trade Council of the UK has issued a rebuttal[39] The Australian Tea Tree Association, a group that promotes the interests of Australian tea tree oil producers, exporters and manufacturers issued a letter that questioned the study and called on the New England Journal of Medicine for a retraction (ATTIA).[40] The New England Journal of Medicine has so far not replied and has not retracted the study.

As with any bioactive substance, an essential oil that may be safe for the general public could still pose hazards for pregnant and lactating women.

While some advocate the ingestion of essential oils for therapeutic purposes, licensed aromatherapy professionals do not recommend self prescription due the highly toxic nature of some essential oil. Some very common oils like Eucalyptus are extremely toxic when taken internally. Doses as low as one teaspoon have been reported to cause clinically significant symptoms and severe poisoning can occur after ingestion of 4 to 5 ml.[41] A few reported cases of toxic reactions like liver damage and seizures have occurred after ingestion of sage, hyssop, thuja, and cedar.[42] Accidental ingestion may happen when oils are not kept out of reach of children.

Oils both ingested and applied to the skin can potentially have negative interaction with conventional medicine. For example, the topical use of methyl salicylate heavy oils like Sweet Birch and Wintergreen may cause hemorrhaging in users taking the anticoagulant Warfarin.

Adulterated oils may also pose problems depending on the type of substance used.

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