A new study claims that aromatherapy (and by extension complementary medicine in general) has no inherent power to stimulate our mood or to heal us. Unless we want it to, that is. Well, frankly, many's the evening when, bathed in jasmine oil (worth more than gold if it is labelled "therapeutic") and choking on a cloud of vanilla essence, I've had to force myself to feel anything but a substantial lightening of my wallet.
But it's not just suggestible women in Crouch End who seek lotions and potions to provide them with a sense of "calm" in their hectic lives. The group most likely to claim that God or a guru has changed them for ever are those who have been caught fulfilling desperate needs for sex and/or money. Mike Tyson found Muhammad while in prison for rape; and now our own dear Jonathan Aitken has gone one better. In his search for redemption and peace of mind, he has found not only religion, but Momo as well.
Momo Kovacevic is a "bio-energy healer" and current darling of the spiritually disabled of Kensington and Westminster. Alexandra Aitken revealed that, during the past difficult years, the Aitken family have all sought help from Momo in dealing with "stressful situations". Twice last week I went to the Kailash Centre of Oriental Medicine, where Momo "balanced my chakras and freed my chi". In the expensively spartan reception, I flicked through a book on Tibetan art, as heady plumes of incense (on sale at the centre - cost £5) came wafting at me through the air vents. Then he appeared; a rangy, middle-aged man with a goatee beard, soft brown eyes and an expensive suit.
Momo came to London in 1991 from the former Yugoslavia. Sitting in his tranquil treatment room, he explained that his talent comes from a greater power and cannot be taught. "Can you cure stress?" I asked, thinking self-pityingly of my house move just days before.
His eyes, like dark pools of kindness, blinked once. "Yes," he said. "Please lie down." Strains of music from a tape that should be called The Most Relaxing Tunes in the World . . . EVER! swept over me and I closed my eyes. A clicking sound started almost immediately, and then came the pins-and-needles sensation. Were there really a million ants streaming all over me? The feeling was so convincing that I didn't dare open my eyes, just in case. The clicking, it says in Momo's literature, is the sound "as he draws off negative energy". I squeezed my eyes shut. The treatment didn't entail much physical contact, because Momo passed his hands back and forth several inches above my body. The clicking intensified after half an hour, when it felt as if a bag of sludge was being shifted from my middle and being drained from my side. I shuddered.
"Lauren, are you all right?" asked a voice from far away. Groggily, I sat up. Jonathan Aitken and his daughter Alexandra are right, I thought. This man is a healer. What, I asked, had happened? "You are full of negative energy," he said sadly. "You need three more treatments before you feel better."
I couldn't help wondering why a natural-born healer would leave most of his family behind him. "In Sarajevo, my gift had been known since I was nine years old," said Momo. "I tried to keep it secret because when my sister became a healer she had no personal life." What did he mean - no lovers? No, their home had been inundated with the poor, the crippled and the unhappy, all begging for his sister's help. To avoid this awful fate, Momo fled to the safety of St John's Wood. Here, his gift is dispensed to "no more than five" desperately wealthy clients a day at £50 per half-hour session.
Modern-day messiahs can still make the unwell believe they have been cured, but they don't bother with the poor any more. The needy will just have to solve their problems without complementary medicine or spiritual healing.