How Essential Oils Became the Cure for Our Age of Anxiety


From The New Yorker: “Oils’ rising popularity is part of the contemporary appetite for wellness, an embrace of holistic healthy-living practices ranging from the low key (meditation) to the wacky (Brain Dust, a forty-dollar jar of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms that promises to ‘align you with the cosmic flow for great achievement’). Wellness is often dismissed as frivolity, another way for wealthy white women to spend money and obsess about their bodies. But you’re just as likely to find essential oils in a small-town drugstore in the Midwest as in an organic market in L.A., and their appeal is often less about indulgence than about anxiety. ‘I am concerned about antibiotic resistance, emerging viruses, and the risks posed by chronic disease,’ the herbalist Cat Ellis writes in her book ‘Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils and Natural Remedies for When There Is No Doctor.’ For many consumers, essential oils represent a purer and more ancient form of medicine, one with Biblical overtones—all those scriptural references to anointing—and none of the baggage of the contemporary health-care system. (Wellness-focused Web sites are more likely to cite oils’ centuries of use in Ayurvedic medicine.) Like homeschooling, beekeeping, and canning, the use of essential oils crosses the political spectrum and speaks to a common desire for increased self-sufficiency—or, more darkly, a fear of imminent institutional collapse. Many of the products available from Goop, Paltrow’s posh wellness emporium, are also for sale on Infowars, Alex Jones’s alt-right conspiracy-theory Web site.”

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