If you’ve spent time researching various essential oil uses, you may have come across two similar words – “Aromatherapy” and “Aromachology.” Both of these words are incredibly relevant when it comes to essential oils. Although these two words sound alike, they are different in meaning. Below, we’ll break down the differences between aromatherapy and aromachology while describing how vital they are when it comes to essential oil uses.
Aromatherapy refers to the use of essential oils to improve someone’s health, both physically and psychologically. Aromatherapy has been around for 90 years, as it was Rene-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, who first introduced the term. He did so when describing his findings on plant essences and their healing powers.
However, even though the term “Aromatherapy” wasn’t coined until 1928, the practice had been around for significantly longer. Essential oil uses have been well-documented in folk medicine. While no one can quite pinpoint when humans began using the oils in plants for aromatic purposes, many believe the practice has been in place for a couple of hundred and maybe even a thousand years or more.
If aromatherapy is known as “folk medicine,” then aromachology refers to the scientific study of such medicine. Although aromatherapy has been around for many years, scientists did not begin to study aromachology until 1989. Thanks to modern research, aromachology has a sturdy neurological base.
In 1989, The Fragrance Foundation formed what is now known as the Sense of Smell Institute to analyze how human behavior and psychology is affected by fragrance. The group defines aromachology as the “range of emotions elicited by scents through stimulation of the olfactory pathways in the human brain.”
Aromachology is a bit different than aromatherapy because it looks at the impact of both natural and synthetic fragrances. Thus, it strictly limits itself to scents and perfumes. In fact, The Fragrance Foundation is an educational branch of the international fragrance industry. Because corporate entities drive the science, it’s fair to question whether its motives are strictly to drive commercial opportunities and sponsorships.
Aromachoogy is significantly different from aromatherapy, which is the belief that plants have natural healing power. For instance, imagine using an essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser. Aromatherapy is the belief that the chemical compounds released from the plants help heal the body and that scents are a natural byproduct. Aromachology is the belief that the smells can elicit a response in humans.
Consider the fact that aromatherapy only uses natural, plant-derived fragrances while aromachology relies on both natural and synthetic fragrances. Aromatherapy seeks to analyze which plants cause a physiological response. Aromachology, on the other hand, analyzes how scents can produce a psychological reaction.
A perfect example is the fact that aromatherapists will use plants and essential oils to try to heal patients. Aromachologists will use scents to try to drive a response. An aromachologist study might ask “What scents should we place at the entrance of a store to prompt customers to spend money?” Similarly, users can use aromatherapy products by breathing them or applying them to the skin directly. Aromachology only works via inhalation.
One of the other significant vital differences is the fact that there is much more funding for aromachology than there is for aromatherapy. This is primarily because corporate entities have driven the science of aromachology. Aromatherapy has been around for hundreds of years, and its successes are well-documented, but there is a noticeable lack of scientific evidence when comparing it to aromachology.
Even though the two sciences are different in what they study, they do have their similarities. Many of the scientific studies in both aromatherapy and aromachology have reached the same conclusions. For example, both sciences have concluded:
Even though commercial studies drove aromachology, its ultimate goal is to encourage a healthy state of mind by impacting an individual’s emotion and mood. This is quite similar to the purpose of aromatherapy, which seeks to find therapeutic uses for essential oils. Although aromatherapy has been around far longer than aromachology, the ladder helps drive the former. Together, the two work hand-in-hand.
This is essential to consider when remembering that there is far less funding for aromatherapy than there is for aromachology. The studies and conclusions that aromachologists reach help drive an aromatherapist’s search for new essential oil uses. Similarly, many of the early aromachology studies were taken from aromatherapy and other folk medicine. Aromatherapy and aromachology never invalidate one another and often prove to be beneficial to one another.
The aromatherapy versus aromachology debate can also boil down to the differences between two products, essential oils, and candles. Essential oils, which are derived from plants, have a wide array of therapeutic uses. Customers can either place the oils in an aromatherapy diffuser to inhale them or apply them to their skin directly. The manner in which they do so will depend on the oil they are using and how strong a result they wish to see.
Candles, on the other hand, rely on the psychological effect of scent. For example, during the winter time, many people choose to burn holiday-themed candles in their home. “Wintergreen” or “Freshly Baked Cookies” are popular options because they provide feelings of comfort and joy. They could also bring back positive memories of someone’s childhood or a happier time in their life.
However, while candles could help someone relax, they will not deliver any other therapeutic results. Compare this to, say, a Welcome Home Blend of essential oils. The Welcome Home Blend contains Cedarwood, Pine, and Patchouli. When placed in a diffuser, it will smell similar to a Wintergreen candle and will immediately invoke feelings of comfort and security.
However, the oil will also provide antimicrobial results as well and serves as an excellent anti-inflammatory. Not only would users receive psychological aromachologic benefits, but they’d also receive therapeutic aromatherapeutic effects too.