By Martin Watt
Here is part of the lecture I would have given at NAHA, had I been permitted to talk on the subject I wanted to. Eventually I declined to attend, as it seems I was expected to reveal the sources of research information that I have been collecting for many years.
The following is a review of the misleading information commonly
taught within aromatherapy.
All my efforts over the years have been targeted at trying to introduce
truth into the trade.
Unfortunately, there are very many people who simply can not tolerate
They are the ones who claw their way to influential positions of power where they actively suppress any dissent in the ranks. These are the people that most of you support, therefore my influence has had to be as a rat scurrying around nipping their toes from time to time. Which I should add I take the greatest delight in. I detest unjustified idolatry and god and goddess figures and will do all I can to tear them down.
In the following you will read some of the harshest condemnations
of aromatherapy training and quality standards that has ever been publicly
At the end of it you may get the impression that I think aromatherapy is a load of hyped up rubbish and has no use. Please, please let me correct that before I start.
I think aromatherapy is a wonderful healing therapy and for certain conditions there is no other therapy that is as effective. However it is crammed to bursting with unjustifiable hype as well as several lying, cheating confidence tricksters.Some historical facts which lead us onto examining how this trade has developed.
1. Aromatherapy as practised now, is a NEW therapy (around 30 years old), I emphasize now before someone says what about the ancient Egyptians? As far as we know they did not have distilled essential oils, or concentrated aromatic extracts that are now used. Therefore most of the material published in aromatherapy books is not based on a therapy that has any significant roots unlike herbal medicine.
2. The vast majority of the early writers on aromatherapy had absolutely no sound knowledge of the sciences or technical issues surrounding the manufacture and use of plant based medicines.
3. Few of those early authors had received any training in the medical sciences.
4. Very few had received any sound training in herbal medicine.
5. Several early authors were closely associated with the beauty therapy trade.
6. When ones studies the works of the early authors, the trained eye can quickly spot the numerous errors they make.
This is particularly noticeable in relation to phytochemistry and
the claimed therapeutic properties. The only early author I have
any respect for is Gattefosse.
Even his book requires quite a good knowledge of essential oils chemistry, to realize that most of the time he was using terpeneless oils, not the whole oil as most people think.
In reality, it is the beauty therapy trade that underlies much of aromatherapy teachings to this day.
This means that the beauty trade, which is and has always been, packed
to bursting with hype and lies, has placed a huge burden on aromatherapy.
Most of you are of course aware, that numerous expert dermatologists
have stated that a cheap 5 dollar pot of cold cream is just as effective
for moisturizing the skin as a pot costing 100 dollars.
Yet, people still insist on purchasing the most expensive product. In other words most people like to live in a fantasy world. That is what the beauty therapy, cosmetics and perfume trade pander to, as do many suppliers and educators in aromatherapy. They tell people what they know they want to hear, NOT THE TRUTH.
In other words "tell them it will take 40 years off the age of their skin and we will make a bomb".
Because of the beauty trade background of aromatherapy, that type of attitude is what pervades our therapy like an invasive, seemingly non-stoppable cancer.
You people have been told a pack of lies by many authors and particularly the suppliers of your raw materials. Nowadays lies are called "good marketing". sorry, but in my philosophy of life, lies are lies. Now again we must look at the beauty trade. If you are told a particular product or treatment will make your skin look younger and it does not, OK it's a lie, but it will not cause you much harm other than to your pocket. Now we should never ever forget that aromatherapy is targeted at treating HEALTH PROBLEMS.
In my opinion it is dishonest to suggest that certain essential oils
can cure medical conditions, when there is not a hope in hell of them doing
what is claimed.
This kind of dishonesty is also endemic in the aromatherapy trade.
Sometimes it is just slightly misleading, but in other cases it is criminally
dishonest and I would like to see people who knowingly do this, locked
away in jail for the rest of their life.
Believe me we have such people in this audience.I can back everything I say, because for years I have been collecting the course notes of some of the biggest names in the trade and some of the claims made are simply horrifying. In the course notes of a leading member of the British AOC and ATC we have statements such as: "Melaleuca quiquenervia is used for; coronaritis, endocarditis, viral hepatitis, gastro and duodenal ulcers, bilary lithiasis, cholera, tuberculosis, cancer of the rectum"
So where are the references to these wonderful properties, sorry there are NONE.
"Origanum majorana. Indications: (transcutaneous route)-Hyperthyroidism".
A serious condition, again references-NONE.
On contraindications we have: "none known at physiological doses"
So what the heck does that mean, a reference, you got to be joking!
I have numerous such examples of utterly unscrupulous and dangerously misleading nonsense from some of the best known names in this trade. I won't bore you with more I could fill a book. However, when one examines the origin of this type of nonsense it generally traces back to 2 or 3 French aromatherapy teachers.
Believe me I have nothing against the French, but they are very much responsible for a lot of the utter trash taught in aromatherapy on therapeutics, chemistry, safety and of course well known for MAKING many essential oils. From the course of a leading figure present at this conference:
"Aldehydes are anti-inflammatory".
This generalization is a potentially dangerous statement. While some aldehydes may have this property, certainly not all of them do. There are hundreds of aldehydes with widely differing properties.
For instance cinnamic aldehyde in cinnamon bark oil is a powerful irritant and sensitizing agent. Therefore it can not possibly be considered anti-inflammatory.
From Dr Penoel's course notes:
"Alcohol's do not irritate the skin".
Again a far too general statement.
What is important is WHICH alcohol and in which essential oil. Cinnamic alcohol can be a very potent irritant, so how the heck can it be classed as non irritant?
"Eucalyptol is well tolerated by the skin".
This chemical has only been tested on humans at up to 16%, it occurs at extremely high levels in common Eucalyptus oils and yet this writer advocates later in his notes the use of the NEAT OIL.
The variety E. smithii which he recommends; has not been subjected to any formal testing on humans for any adverse effects.
CINNAMON BARK OIL:
The daily dose of oil Penoel recommends rectally in 'gellules' is equal to 1600 mg. this is equivalent to aprox. 1440 mg. of Cinnamaldehyde. The World Health Organization recommends the average daily intake(A.D.I) for Cinnamaldehyde should not exceed 0.7mg./kg. For an average 70 kg. man this would equate to 49 mg. maximum daily.
Martindales pharmacopoeia recommends a maximum dose of the oil as 200 mg. If given 3 times a day this equals 600 mg. Therefore if Dr.Penoel's advice were followed of 1-200mg. administered up to 8 times daily, this would give a maximum daily dose of 1600 mg. of oil equivalent to 29 times the maximum recommended safe level of the W.H.O. or 2.6 time higher than the maximum recommended dose in Martindale.
"I am a qualified nurse"
Many of you and the public, seem to think that this means the individual concerned must be extremely knowledgeable about medicine and aromatherapy.
Not so, there are huge variations around the world in nurses training. I have even known people, who when it was checked, had only been ward assistants and had no nursing training at all. There are various grades of 'nurse'. Some of the lower grades involves very little training in the medical sciences, while at the top end you get nurse practitioners who are as competent as doctors.
Which leads on nicely to-
"I am a doctor".
You should always ask a doctor of what?
In aromatherapy we have several people who use the title doctor, to give people the impression that they are medically qualified. Are they a doctor of industrial chemistry, I know of at least three leading names in our trade that are just that. Are they a doctor of philosophy, religion, politics, or indeed have they any such qualification. Yes, there are some leading figures in our trade that obtained a doctorate by attending a course for a few days in Sri Lanka which had nothing to do with aromatherapy. The organization awarding these phony degrees offered it to many people in the International Federation of Aromatherapists in the UK, and doubtless elsewhere.
In other words these "doctors" have a purchased degree. Lets say for
arguments sake that the individual did train as a medical doctor at some
Fine, at least they should have a knowledge of medicine, but that
certainly does not mean they have an adequate knowledge of essential oils.
In that regard there are some well known names in France whose course notes
and writings indicate an appallingly inadequate knowledge of safety.
The same individuals also clearly have not got a sound understanding
of the chemistry of essential oils, or a sound knowledge of a significant
part of their medicinal properties.
While I am on this subject, do not be mislead by those that claim aromatherapy is widely practised by medical doctors in France, this simply is not true and is just another example of aromatherapy hype. My investigations have indicated that of the few doctors in France that use essential oils, most do it in private practice, not within the French health care system.
"I have a degree in aromatherapy"
well that's news to me. In the UK we have a degree course in complementary therapies run by Exeter University. This course was never intended to equip students to be fully fledged practitioners of any one therapy. Instead it was an introduction to complementary health care treatments. From my experience of their graduates, I would judge that their teachers on essential oils do not know what they are talking about.The only other course leading to a degree in something allied to aromatherapy is one run by Middlesex University for herbalists. This full time course qualifies people to become herbalists.
From speaking to some of their students, I was left with the impression that much of their tuition on essential oils hails from some exceedingly dubious aromatherapy teachers.
So unless you want to be fooled, do not accept peoples qualifications on face value, especially if you want them to teach your students.
"I learnt all my knowledge from French doctors".
If the individual who says this tries to give you the impression that they are therefore extremely knowledgeable on essential oils and medicine, this is possibly a sign of a con artist, but most certainly is a sign of someone who does not have the ability to assess the worth of what they have been taught.
There are many people in aromatherapy who simply regurgitate everything they have been taught without a second thought. Indeed such people comprise the vast majority of aromatherapy teachers and authors .Another good indication of someone who is out to mislead is a business card which is packed with impressive looking initials. This always sets alarm bells ringing in my head. Particularly so when who can't work out what the heck they mean.Using religion to sell products.
This is about the closest you can get to the old fashioned quacks who used to roam around the USA often selling phony cures.
"I am an instrument being used by god to bring
you his wonderful creations".
I know many of you will understand who I am getting at here. As far as I am concerned such people should be locked up and the key thrown away. I am not a follower of any religions but am quite sure, if Jesus came to an aromatherapy conference, he would overturn the tables of these purveyors of sham products and seize the cash made by the money grabbing con merchants.
"We grow all our own plants and distil them".
A classic con that one. Since when did sandalwood trees grow in France, or Ylang trees grow in the USA, or Ravensara 'wild' grown in France, seen this all on oil suppliers lists.
Where are the huge fields of aromatic plants that are needed to produce commercial quantities of most oils?
The next one is "oh no, we don't grow them all ourselves, but we inspect all the people that grow the plants for us" I have a simple answer to that, it is bullshit!"All our oils come only from organically grown or wild plants" again bullshit. The international essential oil trade is a massive agricultural business, I defy anyone to prove to me that every single one of their essential oils comes from certified organically grown plots.
The International nature of the essential oils trade completely prohibits this. In any case there is no sound evidence that such organically grown essential oils are any better than those grown on a commercial scale. Indeed in many cases they will not be of such good olfactory quality if they have been stewed in old copper stills 'on the farm'. If you want to support organic growers, that is a fine thing to do, but please try and get some evidence that you are not just throwing your money into a con artistsuppliers pocket.
The next one is not so much how to spot a con, as how to spot someone who does not have a clue about what they are selling. It is suppliers who sell lily of the valley, apple blossom, strawberry, musk, etc. and in their literature describe them as 'essential oils'. Many of you will of course know that these are all synthetic. If the musk is real then it will cost a fortune and the trade is illegal anyway.
In recent years, most aromatherapy trade associations have been
desperately trying to improve their public image and sphere of political
influence. This has been done by proclaiming publicly "our registered therapists
have to abide by stringent codes of conduct".
Yet, I have assembled a small mountain of evidence on leading members of British trade associations proving beyond doubt that they set rules for others and then ignore them themselves. This even spills over into legal issues, these individuals have the nerve to advise others on how to comply with the laws associated with our trade, and then their own companies blatantly flout the law.
"We are setting high standards of education".
Well how can they do that when so few of their teachers have got the first clue about the subjects they are teaching? "Being a member of our association protects the public against badly trained therapists and rogue sales practices". BULLSHIT-some of the most dangerous practices I can think of are undertaken by members of most aromatherapy trade associations and many companies selling phony goods and services are also members.
Look at any course notes you had during your training. Do
they contain any references to justify claims like: "German chamomile is
anti inflammatory", "lavender is a relaxant", "tea tree kills bacteria".
If you see no references to scientific papers justifying such claims, then
your course provider has not bothered to spend time and money on investigating
their therapy before embarking on teaching the subject.
Most of the course notes I provide are fully referenced, but I have masses of course notes from many so called 'leading schools' that do not contain a single reference on such major issues as safety and therapeutics.
Likewise with books-where are the references? are the references valid?
Are you given enough information to be able to go to a library and obtain original research papers yourself and check what you are told?
In this respect we have had several books recently published where extensive references are given, but when checked, we find the references have nothing to do with essential oils, but are from research conducted on herbal extracts. Now people are running out of ideas on books just on aromatherapy, we are beginning to see people 'inventing' new concepts attempting to unite the use of essential oils with other more ancient therapies.
Yet, when we look at the authors what do we find-they have themselves trained on 'jack of all trades, master of none' courses.
Take for instance Chinese herbal medicine: to do the most basic training takes a minimum of two years of dedicated hard study, plus clinical experience under the supervision of highly experienced practitioners.
Yet people are writing on this subject, whose knowledge base on both Chinese traditional medicine as well as aromatherapy is appallingly inadequate,Many of your icons have built their reputation on a constant flow of books which are not much better than novels. Many course providers have then constructed their courses around these books.
Again look at your course notes and see if in the bibliography you have a whole string of aromatherapy books listed, rather than books published on essential and fixed oils, plant chemistry, medicine, etc.
People often say to me "well if you know so much, why don't you
help these organizations set better standards". The short answer
is I refuse to associate myself with con artists. All I can do is keep
prodding at the members of these associations until they get fed up, and
have a purge of the dead wood and criminals who are deeply entrenched within
Personally I have the gravest doubts that this will happen. Therefore, my efforts are being directed at constructing an alternative system that those honest people who care deeply about our therapy may wish to participate in. In the mean time I will do everything within my limited means, to discredit and destroy the corrupt organizations and individuals that the majority of you people support.
© 1998 by Martin WattMartin can be reached at: http://www.aromamedical.org
|, AGORA home page||Go to the FAQ pages|
|This site is hosted by Michel Vanhove|
Updated formating and corrected Martin's contact information. I also cleaned up some spelling and corrected it to contemporary American usage, since this aricle was aimed at an American audience and is probably mostly read by Americans.
NAHA is a reference to the 1997 or 1998 conference of the [American] National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. -rs
AGORA Pages originally hosted on these now dead sites are now hosted on the AGORAIndex.org site when available:
©Aromatherapy Global Online Research Archive and it's individual authors. All Rights Reserved.