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Aromatherapy Falls Short, Study Finds
Date:3/5/2008

It didn't heal wounds, relieve pain or boost immune status

WEDNESDAY, March 5 (HealthDay News) -- Aromatherapy: It may smell good, but is it actually good for you?

Researchers are reporting that two of the most commonly used scents in aromatherapy do nothing to heal wounds, relieve pain or enhance immune status, although one did briefly improve mood.

In fact, in some cases, distilled water showed more of a salutary effect, the study found.

"Keep it in mind before spending a lot of money" on aromatherapy, said study lead author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Division of Health Psychology at Ohio State University. "I buy perfume, because I like the smell. If you enjoy the smell, that's one thing, but don't buy perfume because you expect to change your physiology or to really influence your health."

The study results are published online in the April issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Used for thousands of years in countries such as India and Egypt, aromatherapy has many adherents who say the concentrated oils extracted from flowers improve health and emotional well-being, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Despite its widespread use, there's little scientific data on the effectiveness of the therapy, the study authors stated.

"This is by far the largest and most comprehensive study of actual physiological outcomes," Kiecolt-Glaser said. "There are different perspectives on why odors should work in terms of changing physiology, if they do. A lot of aromatherapy literature thinks of it as a drug-specific mechanism." In other words, that scents work much like drugs work, with very specific effects.

Using this point of view as a starting point, Kiecolt-Glaser and her colleagues, who included husband Dr. Ronald Glaser, looked at the two odors that have been most researched: lemon, which is purported to be stimulating and a mood enhancer, and lav
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