Aromatherapy, using essential oils as an odorant by inhalation or massage onto the skin, has not been shown to work better than massage alone or a control. No failures have, however, been reported, although treatment is invariably changed on each visit. Many patients feel better, even if their disease is getting worse, due to their belief in an alternative therapist and this is a good example of "mind over matter," that is, the placebo effect. This effect has been recommended by some members of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, Sixth Report (2000), as a good basis for retaining complementary and alternative medicine, but other members argued that scientific proof of effects is necessary.
It is hoped that aromatherapists do not try to convince their patients of a cure, especially in the case of serious ailments such as cancer, which often recede naturally for a time on their own. Conventional treatment should always be advised in the first instance and retained during aromatherapy treatment with the consent of the patient's primary healthcare physician or consultant. Aromatherapy can provide a useful complementary medical service both in healthcare settings and in private practice, and should not be allowed to become listed as a bogus cure in alternative medicine.
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