Monday, March 7, 2011

How Science Tests Essential Oils in Ohio

How many drops does it take
to effectively 'lace' a cotton ball?
I happened upon a scientific study from 2008 on essential oils the other day. They were trying to measure essential oils' possible ability to speed up the healing process in skin. At first I thought it was a joke (their methods made no sense and one of the involved scientists had a silly name), but after reading it again, I realized they were serious. I moved on, expecting to forget about it, but it kept bugging me, so now I'm sharing it with you.

Sniff Away - It Won't Do a Thing To Repair Your Skin
The study was carried out by Ohio State University on 'the possible ability of essential oils to speed up the skin's wound healing process'. They chose to use lemon and lavender for the study because these were well known essential oils. Their findings – under the bold headline
AROMATHERAPY MAY MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD, BUT IT WON’T MAKE YOU WELL – showed that there was no indication sniffing lemon or lavender made any difference at all in the wound healing process. As far as I could read from this report, testing did not include any type of topical application and was limited entirely to inhalation of the oils. Did they not realize that aromatherapy encompasses more than inhaling essential oils?

No Topical Trials
I can't help wondering why they didn't include any topical use if their object was to discover whether or not the skin would show accelerated healing power from exposure to the oils. If you're studying lavender essential oil in particular, it would be ridiculous not to include topical application, as that is how one uses lavender essential oil for skin repair (even if you're not an aromatherapist). If you're studying lemon for wound repair, you would be looking at the juice of the lemon and not the essential oil, and you would be studying whether or not it helps stop bleeding.

Laced Cotton Balls
As for the way the oils were administered for these tests (and I quote: 'subjects had essential-oil-laced cotton balls taped under their nostrils'), I have to wonder if the folks doing this study did any research on how to work with essential oils at all. How many drops were used to 'lace' each cotton ball? How long from when they were 'laced' until they were 'fastened' under the subjects nostril? Were they at room temperature? As anyone who works with essential oils will tell you – they are always carefully dosed by the drop. Because they are so volatile, you need to use/administer them immediately upon opening the bottle – most particularly if you are using them for inhalation (read: within moments). I couldn't find any details about this in the report.

But Lemon Will Improve Your Mood
The study did find that lemon essential oil improved the mood measurably of participating subjects, while lavender did not lift the mood of anyone. (Wonder why? Lavender isn't a mood enhancer. It has a calming and relaxing effect – even helping to promote sleep.)

If you're curious about this study, find the information here. I'd be interested to hear anyone elses opinion on this. (maybe I did get it all wrong and it really was a joke!)

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