Aro­mather­apy’s nat­u­ral ap­peal is driv­ing sales


Long eclipsed by mod­ern medicine, de­mand for aro­mather­apy with its sen­sual fra­grances and sooth­ing pow­ers has surged as more peo­ple are at­tracted to nat­u­ral prod­ucts.

Fans of the plant-based es­sen­tial oils as a means of tack­ling phys­i­cal ail­ments and pro­mot­ing emo­tional well-be­ing have helped pro­pel aro­mather­apy sales, which in France for ex­am­ple jumped by around 16 per­cent this year.

In Ger­many, aro­mather­apy has even made its way into hos­pi­tals for treat­ing bed­sores.

But the ap­peal for many users of the ther­a­peu­tic es­sen­tial oils, which can be ad­min­is­tered in sev­eral ways in­clud­ing mas­sage or in­hala­tion, is the chance to take charge of their own well­be­ing.

One com­pany rid­ing the wave of aro­mather­apy’s ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity is Puressen­tiel, which has grown rapidly since its found­ing a decade ago.

It now em­ploys about 100 work­ers and has five branches around Europe in Bel­gium, the UK, Italy, Lux­em­bourg and Spain.

The fam­ily firm rang up sales of 70 mil­lion eu­ros (US$78 mil­lion) last year and aims to bet­ter that by a fifth this year.

From the com­pany’s del­i­cately scented head­quar­ters in an up­scale neigh­bor­hood of western Paris, Marco and Is­abelle Pac­chioni have am­bi­tions to turn Puressen­tiel from France’s leader in the field to the world’s No. 1.

The com­pany re­cently opened a sub­sidiary in Canada, and is now eye­ing the mas­sive U.S. mar­ket.

In France alone, aro­mather­apy sales in phar­ma­cies and other out­lets came to 180 mil­lion eu­ros for the 12 months from July 2014, a 16-per­cent jump com­pared with the same pe­riod a year ear­lier.

‘Not treat­ing ill­nesses’

With that growth fu­elled by a de­sire for nat­u­ral prod­ucts, Puressen­tiel sources its in­gre­di­ents world­wide, which are then steam dis­tilled. Its best­selling prod­uct boasts no fewer than 41 es­sen­tial oils.

“We re­alise that the users of our prod­ucts want to take charge of their shape, their well-be­ing and their lit­tle ev­ery­day ail­ments,” said Is­abelle Pac­chioni, whose mother was a herbal­ist and her fa­ther, a natur­opath.

“They’re ask­ing them­selves ques­tions which for a long time have been hid­den by a sort of lob­by­ing by syn­thetic chem­i­cals,” she added.

Aro­mather­apy claims to of­fer pre­ven­tive and heal­ing reme­dies for a gamut of ills, such as colds, headaches, in­som­nia, fa­tigue, stress and in­sect bites.

Is­abelle Pac­chioni said aro­mather­apy fans were no longer se­duced sim­ply by the fact of us­ing plant-based prod­ucts, but needed to see that the prod­ucts ac­tu­ally pro­duced re­sults.

But there are lim­its of what they can achieve. “We’re not go­ing to treat ill­nesses, but treat the en­vi­ron­ment” of those who are sick, Pac­chioni said.

In Ger­many, around 30 hos­pi­tals em­ploy es­sen­tial oils for clean­ing or pre­vent­ing bed­sores, es­pe­cially in el­derly peo­ple.

“We of­ten no­tice that the costs are lower than with con­ven­tional phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts,” Monika Werner, a Ger­man spe­cial­ist in al­ter­na­tive medicines and a speaker on aro­mather­apy, said.

“The view of many doc­tors has changed on aro­mather­apy, but the road has been long and there will al­ways be skep­tics,” she added.

Don’t Look for Mir­a­cles

But ex­perts warn against the ef­fects of the mis­use or abuse of es­sen­tial oils, not least be­cause of the risk of dashed hopes.

“The trend for the public at large to go back to na­ture” can lead to a ten­dency “to go look­ing ev­ery­where a bit for a mir­a­cle” said Anne Lan­dreau, a bio­di­ver­sity re­searcher at Nice Univer­sity.

As a trained phar­ma­cist, she also cau­tioned that es­sen­tial oils, like medicines, are made up of ac­tive com­pounds which must be used in pre­cise cases, fol­low­ing good guid­ance and in the cor­rect quan­tity.

She does not ad­vise their use for preg­nant women and ba­bies, for ex­am­ple.

She added, how­ever, that a sci­en­tific study on es­sen­tial oils that she car­ried out her­self at the an­tipoi­son cen­ter of a public hos­pi­tal in Angers, western France, had con­cluded that it was sim­ply not pos­si­ble to say whether they were dan­ger­ous or not.

“It de­pends on their com­po­si­tion, the quan­tity used and re­ac­tions of each per­son,” she added.


This pic­ture taken on Sept. 16 shows French Aro­mather­apy com­pany Puressen­tiel founders Is­abelle and Marco Pac­chioni at the com­pany’s of­fice in Paris.

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