Advances Aromatherapy How Oils Work
Does aromatherapy really work or are the changes observed by therapists in their clients due simply to the placebo effect?
In the UK there are two ways to administer essential oils (inhalation and dermal), but do these methods have any therapeutic effects on internal body systems? Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy and , because of this, there has been little research on its pharmacological effects; pharmacology is the study of the effects of drugs on the body. Therefore, the question “how do essential oils work?” really becomes “do essential oils work?”.
Recent Trials – An authority in clinical aromatherapy, Salvatore Battaglia states that it has been taken for granted that essential oils are absorbed by the skin, but that this may now be supported by recent studies using lavender oil in dilution with peanut oil. The blend was massaged over the abdomen of a test subject for 10 minutes; after 20 minutes traces of the essential oil’s constituents linalool and linalyl acetate were found in the blood indicating that the oil had penetrated dermal layers. The debate rages as to whether essential oils can really be absorbed by the skin.
A pathway through the skin – Essential oils and carrier oils consist of fat soluble molecules that allow absorption into the skin, though they must pass through several barriers before reaching the bloodstream. Entry through the skin’s ducts is the fastest route, though the stratum corneum (the skin surface consisting of dead, flattened skin cells) is the major pathway.
Dermal layers – The stratum corneum absorbs permeating substances via the polar pathway (across the calls and intercellular spaces) and lipid pathway (through intercellular lipids). Less is absorbed through the polar pathway, which deals with water and ions while everything else is diverted through the lipid pathway. The next layer, viable dermis, acts as less of a barrier but is more absorptive and will absorb much of the permeating substance. The lowest layer, dermis, offers no barrier and it’s likely that any substance that makes it this fat will enter the circulatory system.