Aromatherapy and essential oils have a rich history of effectiveness, and thankfully due to the increased interest in the modality, there is now a growing body of evidence-based research into the field. Experimental scientific studies and research help us understand and advance our knowledge of essential oils, application and usage methods. But what does all the research, its methods and techniques mean? Let’s unpack some terminology associated with research.
It is wonderful that a growing body of research is being conducted on essential oils using various methods, as it continues to legitimize their use and aromatherapy as a modality overall. But where does one find research on essential oils? A good place to start is PubMed. PubMed is a free search engine maintained by the National Institutes of Health. It accesses databases for references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. A quick search on PubMed for essential oils elicited thousands of results. It is important to note that it doesn’t give complete access to the full research, and in many cases it just shows research abstracts. Make sure you read the complete case research before citing it as a reference of essential oil efficacy or safety.
An example of a randomized clinical trial is The effect of music therapy and aromatherapy with chamomile-lavender essential oil on the anxiety of clinical nurses: A randomized and double-blind clinical trial (Zamanifar et al., 2020).
You can search for research information on essential oils, aromatherapy, carrier oils, CO2 extracts, hydrosols, and absolutes. Be mindful of the search terms you use when you start looking. You may elicit different responses if you use say lavender essential oil as opposed to Lavandula angustifolia.
Knowing the differences among these approaches to testing and research helps us to understand the applications and limitations of essential oils in the real world. We have seen many people post and share about some essential oil research, but when you delve a little deeper, the research is just an indication of further study that needs to occur, or sometimes it is misrepresented by parties with competing interests. The research also helps us determine the safety and efficacy of essential oils.
When looking at research papers, we need to look beyond the headline and the abstract. We need to look at the methodology used, we need to look at the authors and whether they have conflicting interests, and we need to look at what type of oil or extract was used (Latin name should be included)—what is an essential oil? Was it a chemical constituent of an essential oil? Was it a CO2 subcritical or supercritical extract?
This is obviously not a complete list of what to look for, as you will learn more about these topics as you study with us at Essence of Thyme, but this gives you a good starting point when it comes to essential oil research.
The amount of research being conducted into essential oils, carrier oils, and aromatherapy is growing daily, and it is an exciting area of research for many, including us as practitioners and educators. It helps us all to keep abreast of the breadth and depth of this evolving modality. And isn’t that exciting?!
Ekins, S., Mestres, J., & Testa, B. (2007). In silico pharmacology for drug discovery: Methods for virtual ligand screening and profiling. British Journal of Pharmacology, 152(1), 9-20. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0707305
(n.d.). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov
Zamanifar, S., Bagheri-Saveh, M., Nezakati, A., Mohammadi, R., & Seidi, J. (2020). The effect of music therapy and aromatherapy with chamomile-lavender essential oil on the anxiety of clinical nurses: A randomized and double-blind clinical trial. Journal of Medicine and Life, 13(1), 87-93. https://doi.org/10.25122/jml-2019-0105
Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies offers 300- and 630-hour professional aromatherapy certification programs that help you grow a successful, fulfilling career by specializing and creating your market niche. Professional Level Certification prepares graduates to become aromatherapy consultants, launch product lines or retail businesses, or provide services as an adjunct to existing holistic health specializations. Master Level Certification and electives are ideal for certified aromatherapists seeking higher education or a path to clinical aromatherapy practice.
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