The medium we use will be that of essential oils, for these are the most potent and easily usable form of nature’s aromas. While some students of aromatherapy restrict their practice to natural fragrances, others make use of synthetic substitutes too. Because the art is based on response to scent, it must be questioned whether it truly makes a difference whether that aroma is extracted from nature or earnestly replicated in the laboratory. If the difference is undetectable, will the resulting effect not be the same, as well?
Another argument in defense of the employment of synthetic scents is on a practical level. Because of the difficulty of extracting certain oils or the rarity of the host plant in nature, the cost of the end product can be prohibitive. There is an oil that is derived from a lily that grows only in one particular region in France. The cost of the natural essential oil would run into the thousands of dollars per ounce. Meanwhile, a good synthetic of this same scent can be purchased for well under a hundred dollars for an entire pound.
While it might be argued that the natural essence would have a higher level of effectiveness, this is really a moot point. Because the synthetic has a proven track record, it ought not be discounted as a valid alternative to the unavailable and cost-prohibitive natural product. In my own practice, I use the readily available naturals but will not undervalue the virtues of a good synthetic essence when the natural oil is not readily available or priced too dearly.