March 31, 2008
Botany Photo of the Day: Laurus nobilis
Laurus nobilis is the featured species at Botany Photo of the Day with information provided by Connor Fitzpatrick from the Global Facilitation Unit for underutilized species. They are doing a series on underutilized plants. Another species featured in this series is Sea buckthorn berry.
March 26, 2008
The kind of aromatherapy article we don't need
An article about aromatherapy and essential oils has been published on Mike Adams Natural News web site. Entitled Raise Your Immunity Frequency With Essential Oils to Beat the Common Cold, the article appears to have been cobbled together from old Young Living web sites and brochures--a mixture of science and pseudoscience that could tarnish the reputation of the Natural News web site, which has risen quickly to an Alexa rank of under 50,000 since its inception in late January.
The electrical engineer in me (BSEE 1965) has struggled for years with the concept of frequency as applied to essential oils. I've read what Young Living web sites say (mostly derived from Gary Young's book Aromatherapy: The Essential Beginning), looked at Bruce Tainio's web site, and read a bunch of stuff about Royal Rife. Since most of these materials are written in general terms (using technical terms that may or may not be understood by the person quoting them), it's hard to figure out exactly what they mean. Tainio, on his web site, is obviously amused by what he sees as misuse of the concepts he developed
If you find information about the frequency meter or about Bruce's research that did not originate from us, or that is not included in this web site, it may or may not be entirely accurate. Please remember to take it with a grain of salt. We do!
At any rate, I am both amused and chagrined by the attempt to use the frequency theory to justify and explain essential oil use. Even if the theory is valid (there seems be a dearth of published research) the author doesn't do a very good job of proving her case.
From an introduction explaining about frequency, she cites some research showing that stress or negative attitudes increase the likelihood of getting a cold (probably true), detours into avoiding antibiotics because they don't control viruses (also true) and throws in a pastiche of facts about colds, and eventually arrives at a conclusion: Lo, essential oils have a high frequency and can be used to raise the body's frequency, thus making it healthy!
Citing in vitro studies done by Young Living staff that showed that essential oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, and French practices of internal use, she admits that "While this is an over-simplification of the serious medicinal aspects of aromatherapy, it is helpful, nevertheless, in demonstrating the effectiveness of therapeutic essential oils in the medical arena."
The article list several essential oils claimed to be effective against cold viruses, including oregano, thyme, fennel, juniper cinnamon, rosemary and clove. It isn't clear how the oils are to be taken, but internal use is implied by the wording. There are no safety warnings or even suggestions that the oils should be diluted or might be best dispensed by qualified practitioners. There is no direct link to Young Living as a supplier, but there is a link to the author's web site and from there a broken link to a YL site.
Certainly the world of aromatherapy would be better served by an article that is more in accord with confirmed scientific theories of aromatherapy and which provides precautions for use. I remember meeting a woman several years ago who had had a liver transplant because in her naive state she overdosed on herbs that destroyed her liver. The same thing can happen from high doses of conventional drugs or essential oils.
March 25, 2008
Cropwatch Update on Citrus Oils
Citrus Oils: the Situation
Cropwatch is directly opposing IFRA's Risk Assessment on furanocoumarins, and its proposals to severely restrict citrus oil usage in cosmetics products. Unfortunately, because of the lack of transparency exercised by RIFM, IFRA and the EU Commission over this matter. it means that unless you, dear reader, belong to a professional association, probably won't get to see IFRA's information letter IL799 on the topic, or the Risk Assessment that the EU Commission was given in late 2007 by IFRA. IFRA have apparently suggested a cosy future chat with the EU Commissioners, some unnamed industry moguls and fragrance consumers (presumably IFRA or RIFM members) to 'explain matters' - presumably code for agreeing their highly restrictive citrus oil proposals (see below) with the EU regulator. Nobody with an independent or contrary opinion is to be invited.
In a nutshell, the alleged photo-carcinogenic & photo-mutagenic effects of furanocoumarins (mainly from citrus ingredients) contained within cosmetic preparations are causing concerns to the cosmetic regulators. The previous proposal with the SCC(NF)P 00329/00 Opinion to limit all furocoumarins & furocoumarin-like substances to 1 ppm has been dismissed on all sides as unworkable, since not all fur(an)ocoumarins are phototoxic, and nobody has a clue about the furanocoumarin content of citrus ingredients they use. Nobody knows either, what "furocoumarin-like substances" are. Similar critical remarks apply to the next stab that the SCCP made at the subject (SCCP 0942/05).
Now IFRA propose to limit any combination of 6 furanocoumarins markers in finished cosmetics, to 5 ppm for leave-on products, and 50 ppm in rinse off products. The 6 furanocoumarin markers are surrogates for the total furanocoumarin content of the cosmetic preparation, and are identified as follows: bergapten, bergamottin, byakangelicol, epoxybergamottin, isopimpinellin & oxypeucedanin.. In other words, the use of citrus oils in alcoholic perfumery is finished. IFRA are proposing to agree an analytical method for furanocoumarin estimation in cosmetic ingredients by Spring 2008. IFRA are also proposing the use of UV-absorbers to counter the phototoxic effects of furanocoumarins, but these are already in use for many categories of cosmetic products.
IFRA-RIFM are busy demonstrating to us all that they know as much about terpene chemistry as they have previously shown they do about botany! In the real world, furanocoumarin concentrations vary in citrus products from zero to several thousand ppm depending on processing, botanical origin down to varietal level, geographical location, growing conditions & history etc. Further, furanocoumarins interconvert & degrade during processing and in the finished cosmetic product, making matters even more complex. IFRA-RIFM have also been essentially dishonest in ignoring the fact that much of the citrus product on the market is adulterated, and they have not discussed the implications of this for furanocoumarin occurrence in citrus ingredients & the toxicological consequences thereof. Luckily the subject is extensively covered in the scientific literature by real experts in the field.
Previous IFRA & RIFM statements (which are often conflicting) on citrus oil photo-toxicity and essential oil composition have been collected in the accompanying data-base document, together with independent findings from workers in the field. This will be progressively updated.
Cropwatch has further collected items on individual furanocoumarins, and on relevant photo-toxicological topics so that (a) we assess whether IFRA-RIFM have properly represented the total available knowledge on the subject, and (b) so we can all follow the arguments presented. This will be progressively updated as well.
Our main conclusion thus far, is that IFRA is not presenting a policy for citrus oils which is in the best interests of the fragrance industry. Rather, it is presenting over-precautionary safety proposal which is in the best interests of toxicologists. Much of the available scientific data available on furanocoumarins is slanted towards so-called 'evidence' from repetitive & relatively extreme medical treatments for serious skin diseases, such as PUVA. There is very little explanation of the relatively low incidence of adverse photo-toxicological effects from furanocoumarin-containing essential oils, the role & interplay of protective & anti-carcinogenic effects of the other components within essential oils, an area which is still little investigated & little understood. The essential oil & fragrance industry has thus been badly served by these developments & could have reasonably expected a vigorous defence of citrus ingredients, not their consignment to the dustbin.
Cropwatch will continue to campaign for a sensible & proportionate policy for citrus ingredients. Cropwatch supporters outnumber the total IFRA, RIFM & EFFA membership combined and from the contacts we had with perfumers, soap-makers, cosmetics manufacturers etc., we believe they will ignore these proposed IFRA restrictions as both unworkable & unnecessary. .
The Cropwatch Team
March 24, 2008
Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy Response to OSU Aromatherapy Study
Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt responds in detail to the OSU Aromatherapy Study at the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy site (scroll down the page to find the article entitled "Aromatherapy Won't Make You Well, Study Shows or creating sensations by omission"). He distinguishes three aspects of the paper: The factual paper itself; the popular rendition in the press release as reprinted "ad nauseam"; and thirdly the issues
that can be raised about the purpose and meaning of a recent trend, in which studies like the one discussed here aggressively prove the lack of efficacy of natural remedies. In recent times a number of well financed and immaculately organized studies have reported that the efficacy of various important phyto pharmacons does not exceed that of placebo. Plant medicines demoted in this fashion include St Johnswort, Echinacea, Saw Palmetto and Black Cohosh and soon probably also Gingko. Publication of the negative results generally appear in high level medical journals and spawn endless repetitions in scientific journals as well as the mainstream press generating the impression that somehow all the inherited wisdom about plant medicine is a figment of the imagination, unfit to perform under scientific scrutiny. The aspect entirely omitted from this discussion is that the methodology of the studies is entirely unsuitable to demonstrate the efficacy of neither the whole therapeutic approach of phytotherapy (or for that matter aromatherapy) nor that of a selected plant extract.
Dr. Schnaubelt points out some of the shortcomings of the study and that the parameters studied "do . . . not truly relate to suggestions the aromatherapy literature makes about these two oils."
He takes on the Science Daily rewrite (which, as we have pointed out here, is actually an almost verbatim copy of the OSU Press Release) with pithy analysis closing with "If cultural critics were to look for a perfect example of rampant scientism, here is one!"
He then goes into a detailed discussion of the definition of Aromatherapy, the rejection of plant medicine by the pharmacological industry, and goes on to suggest that liver detoxification enzymes evolved as a response to the need for mammals to process out the essential oils in new plants they are eating.
It is ironic that plants are the native substrates having triggered the evolution of this enzyme system, which also removes the vast majority of all synthetic drugs. In todays medical literature this very enzyme system is generally referred to as drug metabolizing (!) enzymes creating the impression that somehow the removal of the synthetic drug is a feature that comes with its purchase.
This article is well worth reading and deserves a large audience. It's too bad we can't get it as widely exposed as the OSU press release that stimulated it.
March 17, 2008
The OSU Aromatherapy Study-- the real story
Two recent posts (here and here) have documented the publication of a study entitled "Olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function" and an accompanying press release about it entitled "AROMATHERAPY MAY MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD, BUT IT WON’T MAKE YOU WELL". There have been a number of comments from Aromatherapists on some blogs and mailing lists about the study--mainly based on the press release. Although we are not necessarily defending the study here we feel that the study should be judged on its own merits (or deficiencies) and not on what the OSU Public Relations department has released to the public.
What the study is about
In the introduction the the paper, the authors cite two main references (Price and Price, 1999) and (Hirsch, 2001) with a few others, to define what aromatherapy is, and effectively limit the scope to inhalation aromatherapy, although that is not specifically stated. They cite three mechanisms for how aromatherapy works: Systematic effect theory that "posits that essential oils act like a drug or enzyme", immune function enhancement, and relaxation. They state that "efficacy data are scant, and potential mechanisms of action are controversial." After briefly reviewing some of the literature for lavender, lemon, and placebo (the three oils of choice for the study) they then set forth the exact parameters that they felt defined the study:
To compare and contrast the diverse perspectives about whether and how odors affect health, we examined the autonomic, endocrine, and immune consequences of one purported sedating or relaxant odor, lavender, one activating or stimulant odor, lemon, and distilled water as a no-odor control during both resting and “challenge” or stress conditions in a mixed or between-within repeated measures design; each subject served as his or her own control during three separate 6 h[our] visits. Depending on their random assignment, participants were either given no information about what odors they would be smelling or what to expect (the “blind” group), or they were told what odors they would smell and what changes to expect from the relaxant, stimulant, or no odor exposures (the “primed” group).
Our protocol for each session included a cold pressor, a laboratory stressor that elevates stress-related hormones, heart rate, and blood pressure (Blandini et al., 1995; Hirsch and Liebert, 1998). Both before and after the cold pressor we performed tape stripping, a common dermatological paradigm for studying restoration of the skin barrier, a process mediated by both endocrine and immune systems (Choi et al., 2005). Our design thus provided a way to examine the ability of lemon and lavender odors to modulate stress and pain responses to the cold pressor, as well as wound healing via the speed of skin barrier repair.
In summary, they evaluated two essential oils and a water placebo via inhalation and measured some physiological parameters to determine if there were actual effects. The final paragraph of their introduction summarizes the predictions of results that they expected to obtain from the study and defines the parameters to be measured:
Specific predictions can be derived from the various theories posited to explain the effects of essential oils. For example, if the systemic effect theory is correct, even relatively short-term exposure to lavender would be expected to produce larger declines in the production of cortisol and catecholamines, faster skin barrier repair, lower pain ratings in response to the cold pressor, and smaller stress-related immunological changes compared to lemon and the no-odor control; short-term exposure to lemon oil should produce greater transient increases in positive affect, heart rate, blood pressure, and catecholamines than either lavender oil or the no-odor control. If expectancies determine the pattern of responses (Jellinek, 1997), then the primed group's mood and physiological responses to lemon and lavender odors would be greater than the blind group; similarly, those with positive expectancies about aromatherapy in advance of participation would be expected to show greater changes. By assessing olfactory influences on mood and autonomic, endocrine, and immune function, our design allowed us to contrast these diverse conceptual perspectives, clarify mechanisms, and assess possible clinical efficacy.
I'm probably push the boundaries of fair use in my quoting, but I want to be fair to the authors and it's really hard to summarize this stuff very well. See what happened when they tried at the OSU Public Relations department, or even in the summary to the paper.
I've reviewed the methodology and won't go into detail here, other than to summarize. They had 56 participants in the study; they excluded people who might have adversely affected the study (such as those with no or a reduced sense of smell); they attempted to control any variations in methodology by standardizing the application of the oils and the measurements. One thing that I initially questioned was that they froze the essential oils (at -80C) and thawed only enough to use at the time of a session, but they did perform MSGC's on the oils at the beginning and periodically throughout the study to verify that there were no changes. Dr. Robert Tisserand assured us that freezing should not be a problem causing variability. They obtained their essential oils from a Chemical Supplier, but they provided no specific lot or country of origin data. The vendor has online data available for other lavenders (a 40/42 that came from Russia, for example), but not for this one. The vendor has two lemon oils, but neither has the correctly spelled botanical name and it's not clear which one was used. There is no evidence in the paper that the oils used were appropriately of aromatherapy quality.
The paper describes in detail exactly how they measured each of the parameters; how the experimenters were blinded so they couldn't tell which odor was being used, and how the data were gathered. I'm not going to go into detail here; the methods appear to be adequate to the non-expert. They've stated their methods of statistical analysis in general terms. Since the study was peer-reviewed, we should probably assume that they got the data analysis right.
The method of application of the odors has been questioned. Since they applied the odor to the participants for a period of several hours, and during that time the participants were being tested, they needed a standardized way to apply it. So they applied 100 microLiter of the EO to a cotton ball and taped it between the nose and the upper lip on top of a piece of surgical tape barrier to avoid absorption through the skin. What wasn't made clear in the press release was that they replaced the cotton 4 times [at irregular intervals] during the study period to maintain odor strength and they removed the cotton ball for a lunch break, then applied a new cotton ball to complete the testing.
Another potential issue was the mention in the paper of placement of a "heparin well" in the arm of each participant at the beginning of the session and its removal at the end. Since heparin is a chemical anticoagulant (that has been in the news lately because of bad material imported from China), we were concerned that its presence might bias the results. However, a Google search revealed that the well is merely an IV tube that is placed to allow easy access for taking blood samples during the study. Apparently it's a common practice during research at OSU. There was no heparin introduced into the body during the testing.
The results listed in the study summary were summarized so as to be difficult to understand to the lay reader. The authors presented the results of each of the tests in either descriptive or graphical form. The results are subject to interpretation and that is done in part 4 of the paper, entitled Discussion. That will be covered in a future post.
Summary of Problems observed by me:
- The source and characteristics of the Essential Oils used were not adequately stated and tracked. The authors took care to maintain the oil quality during the study, but there is no way to tell whether the oils were any good to start with. MSGC data should have been included in the paper as well.
- The odor strength was not uniformly and consistently maintained because the interval between changes was not standardized, and because of the lunch break. Even if it had been, it can be questioned as to whether it should have, since intermittent application is the usual mode in aromatherapy.
- The practice of continuous application of the odorant materials during the entire test is not in accord with my understanding of normal aromatherapy practice, although the paper seems confused on the issue, citing one intermittent study (Goel et al., 2005) and one with "short term inhalation," whatever that means.
- No trained aromatherapist was apparently consulted about the study. It might also have been useful to have the opinion of a trained aromatherapist as to the quality of the oils used and their suitability for aromatherapy.
(only these mentioned in this post are included here--the full paper has 41 references listed).
Blandini et al., 1995 F. Blandini, E. Martignoni, E. Sances, G. Bono and G. Nappi, Combined response of plasma and platelet catecholamines to different types of short-term stress, Life Sci. 56 (1995), pp. 1113–1120. Abstract | Full Text + Links | PDF (595 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (11)
Choi et al., 2005 E.-H. Choi, B.E. Brown, D. Crumrine, S. Chang, M.-Q. Man, P.M. Elias and K.R. Feingold, Mechanisms by which psychologic stress alters cutaneous permeability barrier homeostasis and stratum corneum integrity, J. Invest. Dermatol. 124 (2005), pp. 587–595. View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (25)
Hirsch, 2001 A.R. Hirsch, Aromatherapy: art, science, or myth?. In: M.I. Weintraub, Editor, Alternative and Complementary Treatment in Neurologic Illness, Churchill Livingstone, Philadelphia, PA (2001), pp. 128–150.
Hirsch and Liebert, 1998 M.S. Hirsch and R.M. Liebert, The physical and psychological experience of pain: the effects of labeling and cold pressor temperature on three pain measures in college women, Pain 77 (1998), pp. 41–48. Abstract | Full Text + Links | PDF (60 K) | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (13)
Jellinek, 1997 J.S. Jellinek, Psychodynamic odor effects and their mechanisms, Cosmet. Toilet. 112 (1997), pp. 61–71.
Price and Price, 1999 S. Price and L. Price, Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh (1999). Here in Google Books.
Tisserand, 2008 Robert Tisserand, Personal Communication to blog author.
March 09, 2008
Sustainable Development of Aromatic Plants in Laos
Environmental Impacts of Trade Liberalization in the Medicinal Plants & Spices Sector of the Lao PDR
While searching for something else, I happened across the above-titled paper (.pdf) posted on the website of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). A summary of the publication is available here.
The paper discusses medicinal plants and a number of essential oil species, including Agarwood, Vetiver, May Chang, and Cinnamon. An Annex at the end of the paper includes pictures of the manufacturing process (including the still) for Agarwood. One of the key findings is:
key issues facing this sector at present, include a lack of systematic and scientific approaches to harvesting, specific plans for cultivation and strict enforcement of laws and regulations, weak collaboration amongst concerned authorities (between central and local authorities and between public and private sectors), and limited awareness among rural people on the preservation of biodiversity.
Essentially, they are working on ways to increase medicinal plant and essential oil exports in a sustainable way.
Ultrasound Assisted Essential Oil Extraction
Sample Preparation (an Online magazine) has reviewed a paper that has been accepted for publication in the journal Talanta entitled "Ultrasound-assisted dynamic extraction of valuable compounds from aromatic plants and flowers as compared with steam distillation and superheated liquid extraction." The system was used to extract essential oils from dried leaves of laurel, rosemary, thyme, oregano and tuberose, as well as tuberose flowers (it didn't work well for the tuberose). When compared to the SD and SWE extractions with MSGC, there were higher amounts of more volatile EO components, which the researchers say will be closer to the natural smell of the plants.
The team recommend UAE for the extraction of aroma compounds from natural products, due to its speed, low energy and equipment costs, and relatively high yields.
No information was presented in the review about how UAE extracted oils might work in aromatherapy, and they didn't compare them to CO2 extractions, but it sounds like they might be comparable to CO2 because there is no heat applied.
March 08, 2008
Furanocoumarins in cosmetics – worrying developments
IFRA IL 799.
UPDATED to correct abbreviation error.
IFRA have just released an Information Letter (IL 799) on 'Controlling furanocoumarins in citrus & other essential oils', together with a document on FC's in cosmetic products. Ordinary members of the public, and citrus oil end-users who are not members of the requisite professional trade associations, may find this IFRA Information Letter difficult to locate, but essentially the letter notes the following:
- That a previous IFRA Standard limits FC's (specifically bergapten) to 15ppm in consumer products for UV-exposed skin. Cropwatch comments: As far as we can establish, few perfumery companies have ever abided by this IFRA Standard, and a considerable number of individual working perfumers who we have previously contacted remained completely uneducated about FC levels in the aromatic ingredients with which they construct perfume formulae. Little information either has been publicly available from any citrus product supplier. A recent suggestion by the Cosmetics Regulator (in a communication to EFFA) that FC's in aromatic ingredients can be estimated by HPLC, shows how removed these officials are from any economic & practical reality, and how they continue to only be able to suggest high-technology fixes which economically discriminate against the economic resources of smaller companies.
- Entry 358 of Annex II of the Cosmetics Directive prohibits FC's in cosmetics except for any natural presence in essential oils. In sun-protection & bronzing products FC's are limited to 1 ppm. Cropwatch comments: Again there is little evidence that there is any awareness of the universal enactment of this legislation within the EU marketplace.
- The SCCNFP Opinion SCCNFP/0392/00 September 25th, 2001 called for a limit of 1ppm of total "furano-coumarins & furano-coumarin like substances" in finished cosmetic products, an imposition which was fifteen times more severe as the existing (& probably little-adhered to) IFRA Standard mentioned above. Cropwatch comments: The SCCP Opinion on Furanocoumarins in Cosmetic Products (SCCP/0942/05), ratified on the 13th Dec 2005 is more recent. As usual, the SCCNFP's/SCCP's spoon-fed comprehension of the ingredient toxicology in both instances was incomplete, and its "experts" did not fully appreciate that not all FC's & "furano-coumarin like substances" necessarily present a photo-carcinogenic risk; indeed some might show photo-protective properties. The Opinion was therefore contemptuously received, as well as being practically unworkable in the absence of clear data showing FC concentrations across the huge range of FC-containing aromatic ingredients in the perfumer’s palette. Not the least, the imposition of such a severe limit for FC's in finished cosmetic products would practically eliminate the use of citrus oils in fragrances, as Cropwatch has previously extensively discussed in its Newsletters over 2006-2007.
- According to IL 799, "the industry" (individual company identities withheld), the industry-funded RIFM organisation and the EU Commission have reportedly embarked on a collaboration which has resulted in a Risk Assessment which "was shared with the European Commission at the end of 2007" (public accessibility of this Risk Assessment is unstated). Reportedly, this proposes that for leave-on products, a limit of up to 5 ppm FC's from a combination of any of the 6 following FC markers will be allowed: bergapten, bergamottin, byacanangelicol, epoxy-bergamottin, isopimpinellin & oxypeucedanin. A less restrictive limit of 50 ppm of FC's for rinse-off products is also proposed. IFRA have suggested that "the Industry", for whom it increasingly seems to be the self-appointed spokesperson, meets DG-Enterprise/DG-Sanco "to explain & discuss its proposals in more detail". Cropwatch comments. The specter of a few un-named megacorporations which are potentially able to finance safety research and thus to dictate areas of EU safety policy is alarming, especially as complex bureaucracy such as that in the above scheme, will advantage the larger aroma concerns, and discriminate against the smaller companies - a worrisome area which could so easily become considered as falling into a restrictive practice.
Cropwatch maintains that, as we said before, the case against the photo-toxicity of individual FC’s, as presented in previous SCCP Opinions such as SCCP 09542/05, remains scientifically non-robust, and there is a lack of supporting knowledge, understanding & experimental & technical data. For FC’s occurring in natural aromatic products, matrix effects & the anti-carcinogenic potential of other co-occurring substances remain unclear. Whether any newly presented evidence will instantly clarify this position is uncertain, because although we are supposed to live in a European democracy and there is supposed to transparency in all EU Commission safety policy dealings, key documents relating to safety studies in this area continue to be withheld from the general European public.
Cropwatch suggests the following to its supporters:
- The proposed legislatory conspiracy between unidentified industry concerns, IFRA-RIFM and the EU Commission, to limit FC levels in finished cosmetics for sale in the EU marketplace, is vetoed by the cosmetics & natural products trade in general. This is because the EU Cosmetics regulatory officials have so far failed to clearly & unequivocally establish a robust case of need to control the existing levels of consumer exposure to FC's in cosmetics.
- That the lack of transparency in the evidence-submission process surrounding alleged FC toxicity/carcinogenicity data is corrected by EU officials & advisors. This sort of secrecy is not acceptable in a supposedly democratic European society.
It should also be noted that the outfall from the suggested Risk Assessment allegedly submitted by IFRA/RIFM to the EU Commission for its consideration in late 2007, is likely to do little to address the problems of the continued freedom to use certain citrus ingredients in perfumery/natural perfumery. We all know in our heart-of-hearts that the more the larger Aroma Corporations fund the activities of regulatory-centered bodies such as RIFM, IFRA, EFFA etc., the quicker the end will come for unrestricted natural ingredient usage in perfumery.
March 06, 2008
Aromatherapy Study portrayal on the blogs
The Ohio State University aromatherapy study press release referenced in the previous post, in spite of the fact that it actually confirmed that at least one essential oil, lemon, has an actual aromatherapy effect, is being reprinted or referenced in various blogs as proving that aromatherapy doesn't work.
Here are some of the titles of blog posts and Main Stream Media (MSM) articles picked up by a Google alert for the word "aromatherapy" (I'm not doing links, since most of the items are the same article):
- Aromatherapy may make you feel good, but it won't make you well (original Press Release Title currently at 892 hits--Click here to see the list) UPDATE: Wow! 13,100 hits at 5 pm Saturday UPDATE2: The number has dropped as of 3/25. Apparently Google refined the search.
- Study Finds Aromatherapy Doesn't Work
- Aromatherapy can cheer, not heal
- No advantages from Aromatherapy?
- Aromatherapy Doesn't Fix Body, Study Says
- Aromatherapy Stinks - kind of - and Other News
- Aromatherapy's Effectiveness Questioned
- Two Aromatherapies Don't Work
- Aromatherapy Doesn't Work?
- Aromatherapy can cheer, but not heal, says study
- Does Aromatherapy Work?
- Doubts cast over aromatherapy in new study
- Does Aromatherapy Really Work?
- Study Questions Effectiveness of Aromatherapy
- Aromatherapy has no physical effects
- Do Aromatherapy Products Work?
- Aromatherapy Falls Short, Study Finds
- Experimental Evidence Supports Runner's High; Aromatherapy...Not...
- Aromatherapy is Woo
- Aromatherapy, a Bunch of foolery?
- Aromatherapy is Bullshit Malarkey, Sez Prof. Malarkey! (And He Should Know!)
- No Advantages from Aromatherapy?
- A whiff of scent is no cure for what ails you
I could continue for a long time if I go on to related stories that Google doesn't index directly. And I actually found a few benign headlines. Pravda, for example, has a neutral title: "New study evaluates efficacy of aromatherapy." Another article is entitled: "Aromatherapy makes you feel good, study."
These headlines are an indication that the authors of these blogs didn't actually read the article, or if they did read it selectively. It's a problem with blogging--you need to put a unique title (or so you think) and so you scan the article, throw out a title that reflects your first impressions, post the article, and move on. It's our policy on this blog not to directly reprint an article that someone else has already posted, without their permission. Particularly if we can link to it, which is usually the case. But a lot of aromatherapy bloggers, or anti-aromatherapy bloggers, don't have those scruples. Writing something original about something is hard work. Copying it and putting your name on something is easy--and it's also plagiarism. The several hundred newspaper reprints of the press release with the same title are probably not plagiarism, since it probably went out over the wire.
Anyway, this is what we have to put up with. . . .
March 05, 2008
Aromatherapy May Make You Feel Good, But It Won't Make You Well
Or so says a study by researchers at the Ohio State University that is spreading rapidly throughout the Main Stream Media and the Internet and is being cited as proof that aromatherapy doesn't work. Although I found it first on a blog about the convergence of Mormon beliefs and science, a little searching revealed that it has been extensively reported on MSM web sites and the OSU Press Release describing the study has been widely reprinted (621 Google hits for the title above), the most significant of which is ScienceDaily.
The study, published online in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, looked for evidence that such aromas go beyond increasing pleasure and actually have a positive medical impact on a person’s health. While a massive commercial industry has embraced this notion in recent decades, little, if any, scientific proof has been offered supporting the products’ health claims.
This could have as wide spread a circulation as the NEJM article on Gynecomastia which has been discussed extensively on this blog a year ago. And unfortunately, as happened in the prior situation, there will probably be very little coverage of any intelligent criticism or further discussion that we might have about the results of the study.
Most of the wider media coverage is based on the press release, and it's likely that very few persons will read the actual study, because of the exorbitant fee charged to download a copy. The aromaconnection blog has sprung for the cost and I have actually read the paper. I'll need a couple of days to digest it but we will definitely be commenting further on it. My initial evaluation is that the methodology is valid, but that a study that is limited to only two essential oils is not the same thing as "Aromatherapy", but of course over-generalizations have never been rare in the media world or the Internet.
The abstract/summary of the paper is:
Despite aromatherapy's popularity, efficacy data are scant, and potential mechanisms are controversial. This randomized controlled trial examined the psychological, autonomic, endocrine, and immune consequences of one purported relaxant odor (lavender), one stimulant odor (lemon), and a no-odor control (water), before and after a stressor (cold pressor); 56 healthy men and women were exposed to each of the odors during three separate visits. To assess the effects of expectancies, participants randomized to the “blind” condition were given no information about the odors they would smell; “primed” individuals were told what odors they would smell during the session, and what changes to expect. Experimenters were blind.
Self-report and unobtrusive mood measures provided robust evidence that lemon oil reliably enhances positive mood compared to water and lavender regardless of expectancies or previous use of aromatherapy. Moreover, norepinephrine levels following the cold pressor remained elevated when subjects smelled lemon, compared to water or lavender. DTH responses to Candida were larger following inhalation of water than lemon or lavender. Odors did not reliably alter IL-6 and IL-10 production, salivary cortisol, heart rate or blood pressure, skin barrier repair following tape stripping, or pain ratings following the cold pressor.
If you'd like to find the paper on the Internet, you can find it on ScienceDirect by entering the keyword Aromatherapy. Right now it is the first entry.