I have heard it said that a pleasant-smelling massage is surely very relaxing, but there’s nothing more to aromatherapy than that. And if there is, well it’s just that old placebo effect. It must be so because, I am reliably informed, there are no clinical trials showing that the administration of essential oils has any statistically significant therapeutic value. And, if there are any clinical trials showing a real effect, apparently they are flawed. All of them. But, if there happened to be any flawless clinical trials showing an effect, well whatever essential oil they used should be licensed as a medicine. After all, that stuff is not safe in the hands of quacks!
So anyway yes – it’s all just placebo. Now, here’s my point: What about the rats? What about those legions of rats that have been dosed with essential oils in in vivo studies? The ones that, unlike the sorry rats in another group, did NOT grow tumors, or have seizures, or develop some other induced disease state? Did they all attend a lecture on the importance of the placebo effect before their date with a lab technician?”
In 1989, scientists at the University of Wisconsin found that incorporating orange oil at 5% in the diet of rats meant that only 47% developed breast cancer, instead of 80%, as happened in the control group. In another study, rats dosed orally with 200 mg/kg body weight of black seed (Nigella sativa) essential oil for 6-8 weeks fared very much better than control group rats in terms of colon cancer. OK yes, that’s a huge dose. But what about the rats that slept longer because they inhaled valerian oil, or the ones that slept for a shorter time because they inhaled lemon oil?
No, I don’t like the idea of animal testing. And I do appreciate that the rats in these kinds of study were not massaged. They were dosed orally, or by injection, or by inhalation. Sometimes the doses were massive, but sometimes they were not. The point is that real effects have been seen, even with small amounts, and even just with inhalation. Now, I know that the results of animals studies are not always seen in clinical trials. I remember one researcher, when asked by a journalist whether a particular drug under development could really cure cancer, replying “yes, if you’re a rat”.
I’m just saying – what about the rats? What semi-magical hocus pocus made those rats well?