The Sound a Duck Makes

Hey, you know what’s bullshit? Aromatherapy.

“As a holistic practice, Aromatherapy is both a preventative approach as well as an active method to employ during acute and chronic stages of illness or ‘dis’-ease.”

No, sticking nice smelling things in your nose on on your feet or chakras or whatever other nonsense is not preventive medicine. It’s just perfume for newage hippies.

“It is a natural, non-invasive modality designed to affect the whole person not just the symptom or disease and to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself by the correct use of essential oils.”

Hey guys, guess what! If you use vaguely sciencey-sounding words like modality, people might not notice that you’re completely full of it! Yay!

The body is not some discrete entity that gets sick because it’s not “vibrating at the right level.” It isn’t full of an invisible, intangible* energy web that controls physical well-being. We get sick because either 1) foreign invaders are thriving inside of our bodies by killing off the native fauna and too rapidly reproducing; or 2) because some of the organisms comprised by “the body” are themselves damaged. The body is a microcosm of cooperating and competing life forms. Our brains give us the illusion of selfness, but we are, each of us, a multitude.

It’s a bit funny, I think, that both sides of the political climate use the same ridiculous argument. On the right, “evolution is just a theory.” On the left, “germ theory is just a theory.” Seriously guys, science has got this one covered too.

* How strange that only newage woo-meisters are capable of detecting this "energy!" There's one
group that really profits from the placebo effect. And people accuse Big Pharma of immorality...

6 responses to “The Sound a Duck Makes

  1. On the other hand, the human sense of smell is directly linked to the brain; its speed in identifying and analyzing new information is second only to the immune system. The olfactory bulb is part of the limbic system, so it is linked to the amygdala and hippocampus, structures that contribute mightily to our behavior, mood and memory.

    So, while I agree with you about the “energy” stuff, because there have been very few actual scientific studies of the effects of smelling particular substances, one cannot dismiss that element out of hand. Just think about second-hand smoke–inhalation of a negative substance has a negative effect on a person. Second-hand highs, too are related.

    Now, you know I’m not a hippy-dippy kind of person, but, if you get rid of the word “aromatherapy,” (and all the ridiculocity that goes with it) and replace it with something like “the physical and mental effects of smelling particular substances,” suddenly, we have a situation worth studying and asking questions about.

    Remember: I’m just here to complicate things. :)

  2. There’s no question that smells can have a profound emotional effect, and as has been rightly pointed out elsewhere, they can trigger headaches, which is an obvious physiological change. Still, this is a far cry from the magical-wooness of smells curing disease. They don’t. They may trigger the placebo effect, causing individuals to report diminished symptoms, but such a thing offers no more of a cure for disease than meditation, sculpting, or playing football.

  3. I guess my point is that the medicinal effects of smelling things has not really been studied very thoroughly by the scientific community. What few “studies” that exist, have mostly failed to be actual science, so they don’t count. Asthma inhalers appear to work. Cocaine appears to work (whether for good or ill, I can’t really say). Of course, part of why they work is that the key substance is entering the bloodstream quickly. But I wonder whether smell itself makes a difference. It may not. But until I see some real science (and a cursory Google search turned up very little), well, I can’t say one way or the other.

  4. I guess I’m just not being clear. I’m not defending aromatherapy as it’s presented by magicians. I’m merely suggesting that there might be medicinal substances that haven’t been found yet. I think we actually agree…

  5. But when you remove the magic, what’s left of the idea of aromatherapy? Just the placebo effect, basically. I don’t think there’s a case to be made that inhaling medicine is similar to smelling flower oils. There may be a curative effect to the substance you inhale, but it’s not some property of the smell itself.

    But yeah, lots of medicines are out there waiting to be discovered/formulated, and that whole bloodstream-fast-entry thing makes inhalation a viable delivery system (but this has nothing to do with smells).

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