July 11, 2014 by eomythbuster
Google “British vs French aromatherapy” and you will find a host of sites describing the supposed different schools of aromatherapy. One is hard-pressed to find any reference to these “schools” outside of the sales reps for one company in particular. Its origin is likely due to said company’s association with a certain French doctor who prescribes undiluted internal and topical use for specific ailments as part of his medical practice. Because one French doctor practices this way, it was assumed that all French people, MD or not, use oils in this way. In reality, it is illegal in France for anyone without a medical license to prescribe or administer essential oils.
When sales reps are questioned about the internal and/or undiluted use of essential oils, they often use this “French vs. British” argument as an explanation for their practices. They will say, “We believe in the French method of ingestion and undiluted use, not the more restrictive British method of diluted topical use and inhalation.” In reality, the debate is, as Gabriel Mojay describes it, “a smokescreen”.
If anything, there is a French “Holistic Aromatherapy” school versus a French “Aromatic Medicine” school. Developed by Maugerite Maury in France in the 1930s, “Holistic Aromatherapy” involves the use of low dilutions of essential oils for massage, topical application, and beauty therapy. Maury, a nurse, rightly felt that the more “medical” applications (including internal use) were better left to the medical practitioners (Maury, M. 1992 Guide to Aromatherapy C.W. Daniel Co. Essex). In contrast, the French “Aromatic Medicine” approach “often utilises comparatively high doses of essential oils both topically and internally, to realise dose-dependent pharmacological effects. This discipline relies on a greater understanding of the chemical structure and the pharmacological/toxicological effects of essential oils, to suggest safe dosage levels and contra-indications for use.” (http://www.agoraindex.org/Frag_Dem/toxicitymyths.html, emphasis mine).
Let’s take the nationalistic aspect out of it. Doctors can prescribe and administer prescription medications. Nurses can administer prescription meds, but only at the request and under the supervision of a doctor. Pharmaceutical reps certainly cannot do either. This debate is the equivalent of saying, “Well, I know I’m just a pharmaceutical rep. But I believe in the ‘doctor’ school of prescribing medicine, not the more restrictive ‘nurse’ school. So here, take this. I know what I’m talking about. Try not to think about the commission I’ll be getting when you buy more.”
Do you really want to put the health and safety of yourself and your family in the hands of the equivalent of a pharmaceutical rep? Who, incidentally, has at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in a medical/science-related field, plus additional training and continuing education, and is still not qualified to prescribe medications. Does the person selling you oils have even that much training and education?
No, essential oils are not pharmaceuticals. But they are medicinal, and any substance that has the power to heal also has the power to harm.
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