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Aromachology and Aromatherapy - Do you know the difference?

Updated on December 23, 2015

Aromatherapy Basic

What is Aromachology?

Too many questions I guess. I figured you probably will still be trying to figure out the meaning of one or both terms. A simple definition; aromachology is the study of aromas. However, it doesn’t just stop there because the study tries to find out the benefits of pleasant smells to man. A more accurate, acceptable and encompassing definition is therefore needed. Thus Aromachology can be defined as the study of aroma and the effects this fragrance have on humans especially on their psychology and behavior. Aromachology was first described by the Sense Smell Institute, a division of Fragrance Foundation about 20 years ago, a non-profit organization involved in research programs for the international fragrance industry. In this scientific study, researchers are not limited to the study of only naturally occurring fragrance but also take into consideration, the psychological effects of the synthetic forms. Basically Aromachology draws a lot of interest from the business world especially from perfume manufacturing industry, so the studies are mostly bank-rolled by them.

An understanding of the differences between aromachology and aromatherapy is necessary especially if one is in the relevant industry. While Aromatherapy, an ancient art of healing aims to enhance well-being through the pure essential oils of aromatic plant stems, leaves or flowers, Aromachology, in contrast, describes the science that studies how a pleasant aroma--derived from the laboratory synthetically or naturally--affects human psychology.

Many dubious manufacturers offer products containing synthetic fragrances and fillers with little or no trace of true natural plant essences, yet claim they have aromatherapeutic effects and users only end up with aromachological effects which makes a case for why people should understand the differences between these two in order to be properly guided. A lot of people, who desire aromatherapy, have ended up with aromachology effects and vice versa. A quick glance through the ingredients list of popular aromatherapy room deodorizing spray, for example, rarely will show the exclusive use of genuine natural essential oils as a constituent. When present, are in very insignificant amounts.

So what is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of plant essential oils to improve physical health as well as psychological health in bathwater, as air fresheners or as massage oils. Chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse was the first to describe aromatherapy and the healing properties inherent in plants’ aroma. However, the use of oils from plants has always existed for thousands of years. Aromatherapy practice is a popular form of alternative health care increasingly gaining popularity across the globe. Aromatherapy uses only pure, natural essential oils, each being ailment specific.

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What are the differences?

Therapeutic properties of plants have been known for ages by herbalist and other alternative care practitioners, the use of essential oils is now just a recent addition to the already wide array of alternative health care systems. The real difference between the two is that, aromachology is concerned with the study of synthetic and natural fragrance while aromatherapy limits itself to the use of the use of naturally existing sources of fragrance for healing purposes. Aromatherapy and aromachology are now widely in use today. Aromatherapy is the art of treating ailments with essential oils obtained from an extraction process of the leaves, stems, flowers or roots of plant and made into various forms useful to man. Its uses vary so much that many people now use the oils in cars as air freshener but especially to derive health benefits. Aromachology, a term introduced in 1982, is the study of the influence of smells on the behavior. So aromatherapy is actually a new approach to smelling a fragrance and beyond that derive positive influence in our health and general well-being.

Nicholas Culpeper in 1652 wrote the first "scientific" book that discussed the properties of plants. He discussed list of various medicinal plants found in England and the way they are obtained, prepared and used for treatment of ailments hundreds of years before the term "aromatherapy" was described by Chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse in his book Aromathérapie: les huiles essentielles, hormones végétales ("Gattefossé's Aromatherapy - The First Book on Aromatherapy translated from original 1937 French text). In his book, Rene-Maurice demonstrates how essential oils can reach vital organs through skin to create desirable effects in the body.

Another way of differentiating Aromachology and Aromatherapy, is by noting that, aromachology is a field of study that encompasses aromatherapy. So aromatherapy can be said to be a part of aromachology. Aromachology takes aromatherapy into consideration, by looking into the use of naturally occurring essential oils as well as synthetic fragrance.

Aromatherapy takes the cure of physical well-being of the body more seriously that aromachology that places more emphasis on the effect of aroma on human psyche.

Essential oils have complex and little understood effects on the body because of paucity of research in the field. There may be idiosyncrasies existing in the effects of the aroma and because very little studies have been carried out, people are made to think aromatherapy always works.

Nowadays, there is a very high tendency to believe that oils extracted from some plants have an effect on mood and behavior. So do we really believe they work? Some have argued that treatments that affect the mind usually depend on individual belief. This leave aromachology with a little edge because if its limited use to affect mood and behaviors alone, in a situation where aromatherapist claims they have got solutions to somatic problems, like motion sickness, skin diseases, sleeplessness, headache etc., without much research to back it up.

Despite this, a few proofs provided by aromachology is what most of the practices are based. For example, it has been proven that Rosemary oil enhances cognitive performance and users can improve clarity and focus, Peppermint is invigorating and Lavender is relaxing. The practice of Aromatherapy has withstood the test of time however, and in the west its popularity as a complementary medicine continues to grow especially with many people with insomnia claiming to have found relief after weeks of therapy with essential oils.


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  • countrywomen profile image


    12 years ago from Washington, USA

    Theresa- I love aromatherapy and use it to get good sleep(Lavendar spray). I learnt something new today. Thanks for this hub.


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