By Martin Watt

A lecture written for a NAHA conference that ultimately I refused to attend.

The following is a review of the misleading information endemic within

All my efforts over the years have been targeted at trying to introduce truth
into the trade. Unfortunately, there are many people who simply cannot
tolerate truth. 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.

In the following, you will read some of the harshest condemnations of
aromatherapy training and quality standards that has ever been publicly
voiced. 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, 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 a good number of liars,
cheats and even a few criminals.

Some historical facts which lead us onto examining how this trade has

1. Aromatherapy as practised now, is a NEW therapy (around 30 years old), I
emphasis new before someone says what about the ancient Egyptians? As far
as we know they did not have distilled essential oils, or the highly 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 little 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

4. Very few - if any - 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 in our trade I have any respect for is Gateffosse. However, even
his book requires quite a good knowledge of essential oils chemistry to realise
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.

Numerous expert dermatologists have stated that a cheap pot of cold cream is
just as effective for moisturising the skin as a pot costing a small fortune. 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 unstoppable 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 we must again 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. 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 of them doing what is claimed.

This kind of dishonesty is endemic in the aromatherapy trade. Sometimes it is
just slightly misleading, but in other cases, it is criminally dishonest.

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.

From the course of a leading figure present at this conference:
"Aldehydes are anti-inflammatory".

This generalisation 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 example, cinnamic aldehyde in
cinnamon bark oil is a powerful irritant and sensitising agent. Therefore, it can
not possibly be considered anti-inflammatory.

From the course notes of a well known (in aromatherapy), French

"Alcohol's do not irritate the skin".

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 recommended rectally in 'gellules'
is equal to 1600 mg. this is equivalent to aprox. 1440 mg. of Cinnamaldehyde.

The World Health Organisation 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 this 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

Let's say for arguments sake that the individual did train as a medical doctor at
some stage. 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

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 and without any
outside supervision.

"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 practitioners of any one therapy. Instead, it was an introduction
to complementary health care treatments. Other Universities may be offering
degrees, but the quality of the education they provide on aromatherapy is
highly questionable. This is because these Universities assume people they
involve themselves with in our trade know what they are talking about. Sorry,
but is NOT TRUE!

So, unless you want to be fooled, (many don't seem to care), 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.

"We grow all our own plants and distil them".
Classic sales hype that one. Since when did sandalwood trees grow in France,
or ylang trees grow in the USA, or ravensara 'wild' grown in France? I have
seen this all on the literature from certain essential oil suppliers. Where are the
huge fields of aromatic plants that are needed to produce commercial
quantities of most oils?

"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 hype!

"All our oils come only from organically grown or wild plants".
In the majority of cases this is hype. The International essential oil trade is a
massive agricultural business. In any case there is no sound evidence that
such organically grown essential oils are any better than those grown on a
commercial scale. 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 very fine thing to do, but please do try and
get some evidence that you are not just throwing your money into a con artist
suppliers pocket.

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, i.e., Young Living and Doterra: This is about
the closest you can get to the old fashioned quacks who used to roam around
the USA often selling phoney cures. "I am an instrument being used by god to
bring you his wonderful creations". As far as I am concerned such people
should be locked up and the key thrown away. I am quite sure, if Jesus came
to an aromatherapy conference, he would overturn the tables of the purveyors
of sham products and seize the cash made by the money grabbing con artists.

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.
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