by Katharine Koeppen, RA
Raindrop Therapy is an aromatic bodywork practice in which various undiluted essential oils are dripped onto different parts of the spine in a particular order. Proponents of Raindrop Therapy claim it is a deeply relaxing treatment that releases "toxins" via the spine and throughout the body.
The chief problem with Raindrop Therapy is that it makes use of undiluted essential oils, many of which are high in phenolic compounds. These compounds delaminate the keratin mantle of the skin, creating a chemical burn. Numerous people have suffered adverse reactions to these treatments, ranging from mild burning sensations to outright second degree burns of the skin. Recipients of the procedure are told that any adverse reaction is the result of (unnamed) "toxins" exiting the body.
Practitioners of Raindrop Therapy have made many unusual and extremely questionable claims regarding health benefits of the treatment. These bizarre claims have included magical disappearance of incurable spinal tumors and spontaneous healing of skeletal deformities such as scoliosis.
Those who inquire about the origins of Raindrop Therapy are told that it is an ancient Lakota Sioux practice. Native American healers of old were unfamiliar with the process of steam distillation, and were therefore unable to produce essential oils. Native Americans tribes were introduced to aromatherapy at the same time as most other Americans: in the 1970s, when increased interest in herbal remedies created an import market for essential oils. In reality, Raindrop Therapy is an invention of Don Gary Young, owner of Young Living, an MLM company dealing in aromatherapy products. Lakota elders say they have never heard of the treatment and have never taught any of their native healing practices to Young.
While many people who practice Raindrop Therapy are massage therapists, anyone can purchase an instructional DVD from Young Living to learn the technique, and there is no certification program to insure that would-be practitioners have mastered it. Consequently, unlicensed practitioners abound, most with no formal training in basic aromatherapy, anatomy and physiology, basic manual therapy techniques, ethics or the legality of touch therapies. I have personally met Raindrop Therapy practitioners who were housewives, high school music tutors and civil engineers. None of them received training exceeding a few hours given at an MLM sales meeting, none had ever heard of aromachemistry and none possessed a legal license to touch.
I've only covered some of the concerns about this alternative healing technique, and it has long been criticized by the professional aromatherapy community. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) issued a formal statement against the practice of Raindrop Therapy some years ago. NAHA's white paper is available online for public viewing and goes into considerable detail on specific safety issues and concerns surrounding the practice. The Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) has also deemed Raindrop Therapy unsafe and is in the process of writing their own professional statement against the practice.
If the two largest professional aromatherapy organizations in the country believe that Raindrop Therapy is an unsafe practice, shouldn't you?