Aromatherapy Candles: Aroma Sans Therapy

May 1, 05:27 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Whenever I give a community outreach program on aromatherapy and essential oils, audience members enthusiastically tell me that they make frequent use of aromatherapy candles. These candles can be found just about anywhere, including your neighborhood supermarket or drugstore. They are often someone's first introduction to "aromatherapy." Yet sadly, few consumers realize that when they light a sweet smelling candle, it has everything to do with fragrance and nothing to do with true aromatherapy.

Let's look at the word aromatherapy. Aroma has to do with a substance generated from an aromatic plant. Candles seldom contain essential oils from a named botanical source. Therapy implies a therapeutic or healing effect, helping the body maintain homeostasis or proper balance. Inhaling the vapors generated by a so-called aromatherapy candle will not assist you in falling asleep, help you recover from depression, balance your hormones, or clear your stuffy nasal passages. Appropriate use of a true aromatherapy blend designed for your specific condition will... and aromatherapy blends, or synergies, can be created to effectively assist in healing from any number of common ailments.

Essential oils are highly volatile substances. They are largely held together by weak hydrocarbon bonds which disintegrate upon exposure to heat. The heat generated by a burning candle continually volatilizes any essential oils contained in the candle. Therefore, it is necessary to use a large amount of cheap, adulterated, industrial quality essential oil to maintain the candle's fragrance, or to substitute artificial and longer-lasting fragrance chemicals for the oils. The more popular mass-produced "aromatherapy" candles are created in factories owned by large chemical concerns such as Dow and Johnson & Johnson. Do you really believe that these inexpensive candles contain valuable, genuine and authentic essential oils?

Check the fragrance names on your aromatherapy candles. Commonly used aromas such as fig, berry, pomegranate, mango, etc., don't exist in the form of essential oils. These scents are created from artificial fragrance chemicals. While they smell pleasant to some, they can cause allergic reactions in others. If a burning candle causes sneezing, coughing or irritated eyes, you've likely experienced an allergy to one of these chemicals. If you experience frequent allergic reactions to perfumes and colognes, it's a wise idea to avoid burning aromatherapy candles in your surroundings.

These fruit-scented products sell well because Americans are culturally conditioned to love overly sweet aromas and tastes. We are a society that enjoys our Coca-Cola and Slurpees. Contrast the typical scented candle with the subtle and complex aroma of a fine quality Japanese incense, and you'll understand what I mean.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not opposed to the use of aromatherapy candles. At this writing, I have several Archipelago Botanicals "Stonehenge" candles in various parts of my home. I love the scent, and it's one of the few fragrance candles I can burn that won't send me running for a box of tissues. They create a nice ambient atmosphere during a dinner party or nighttime bath and can be used to freshen room air. I don't consider them "aromatherapy" nor have I ever expected them to provide any therapeutic benefit.

Enjoy scented candles for air freshening and "recreational fragrancing". If you desire a truly therapeutic effect (such as destruction of airborne pathogens in room air), invest in an aromatherapy diffuser, which will effectively disperse essential oils throughout your environment in a microfine mist. There are many different diffusers available on the market, and Aromaceuticals stocks several varieties to fit any budget.



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