For now now, though, I'm just going to highlight this beautiful example of magical heuristics, using the language of science to conceal fundamentally mystical thinking. [Remember to rub your screen three times clockwise before reading, unless using an Apple product, in which case it's counterclockwise.]
Disillusioned by Western medicine, Cohen began exploring other options. She studied with multiple healers and shamans; she read books with titles like “The Body Toxic” and pursued a massage-therapy license. As part of her training, she took a class on a massage technique called “raindrop therapy,” which incorporates essential oils—aromatic compounds made from plant material. At the time, essential oils were not well known, but Cohen was drawn to them right away. “From the very first moment with those oils, I noticed something was firing that hadn’t been firing,” she said. “I was deeply moved.”
Today, Cohen puts frankincense oil on her scalp every morning; when she feels a cold coming on, she downs an immune-system-boosting oil blend that includes clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary. On days when she has to negotiate a contract on behalf of an organization that she volunteers for, she uses nutmeg and spearmint to sharpen her focus. She earns the majority of her income working as a distributor for Young Living, a leading vender of essential oils.
Cohen is middle-aged, with a friendly, open face framed by graying curls. Though her house, in Long Beach, is full of New Age trappings—a statue of Ganesh, huge hunks of crystal—she speaks with the quick clip of someone who once gave a lot of corporate presentations. As we sat at her kitchen table, a glass globe puffed out clouds of tangerine-scented vapor.
Cohen offered me a glass of water enhanced with a few drops of an essential-oil blend called Citrus Fresh. “It helps the body detox,” she said. “Not that you’re toxic.” The water was subtly tangy, like a La Croix without the fizz.
Cohen went into her treatment room and came back with a small vial labelled “Clarity.” She put a few drops in my left palm. “This is good for getting your mind clear,” she said. “Rub it clockwise three times. That activates the electrical properties in the oil, and aligns your DNA.” Following Cohen’s instructions, I cupped my hands around my nose and inhaled deeply. The smell was heavier than that of perfume, so minty that it was almost medicinal. Cohen looked at me expectantly. “I feel perkier,” I ventured.