Aromatherapy News

July 12, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The key to feeling more energetic and peaceful may be right in front of your face. Before you go crazy trying to figure it out – take a deep breath. Part of the solution is just breathing deeply. Now combine that action with essential oils derived from flowers and fruit rinds and you have a powerful natural remedy known as aromatherapy. My Healthy Monday tip of the week is to inhale your way to a better state of mind.

Over the years, many people have adopted the point of view that “real medicine” needs to be unpleasant in order to be effective. On a cursory level this makes perfect sense. Think of all the bitter pills and horrible tasting cough syrups we’ve all endured at one time or another. Even benign-tasting medications often take on negative connotations because of related side effects. It’s really no wonder why we feel the way we do. Fortunately, this preconception is not always accurate.

Stopping to “smell the roses” isn’t just a commentary about how mankind should slow down long enough to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It also speaks to the sensory stimulation that floral scents confer. The July 2010 issue of the journal Phytomedicine is the most recent illustration of how aromas can directly impact behavior and mood. A group of Brazilian researchers evaluated the psychological effects of an essential oil component, linalool, in mice. Linalool is a volatile monoterpene that is present in many aromatic plant species including citrus fruits and lavender flowers. The mice that inhaled linalool demonstrated a reduction in aggression, anxiety and an increase in social interaction. A separate experiment from May 2010 similarly found “acute anxiolytic activity” of sweet orange essence in agitated rats. (1,2,3,4)

Scientific studies involving animals can yield valuable data. However, human studies are always preferable. Thankfully, there have been several studies of late that have explored the influence of aromatherapy in human subjects.

  • A trial involving 340 dental patients revealed that disseminating a lavender odor at dental appointments significantly reduced anxiety levels as assessed by objective measures such as a State Trait Anxiety Indicator and a Modified Dental Anxiety Scale. (5)
  • A hybrid form of lavender known as lavandin inhibited anxiety in 150 adult surgical patients. Researchers from United Hospital in St. Paul, MN stated that “lavandin is a simple, low-risk, cost-effective intervention with the potential to improve preoperative outcomes and increase patient satisfaction”. (6)
  • Younger patients appear to respond equally well to essential oil interventions: a) the use of ginger and lavender oil was recently shown to decrease distress in children with and without developmental disabilities; b) the stress levels of 36 female high school students declined after inhaling bergamot oil – a type of orange oil known for its calming properties. Blood pressure, cortisol (a stress hormone) and pulse rate were statistically lower in the students receiving bergamot aromatherapy as compared to the placebo group. (7,8,9)

One trial even discovered positive effects of aromatherapy in elderly patients living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A combination of lemon and rosemary oil was provided to the study participants in the morning. An essential oil blend consisting of lavender and orange was administered in the evening. Over the course of 28 days, a crossover study was performed in 28 men and women, 17 of whom were diagnosed with AD. All of the study volunteers benefited from the aromatherapy care, but only the patients with AD found significant improvements in a few specific measures of cognitive performance: the Gottfries, Brane, Steen Scale and the Touch Panel-type Dementia Assessment Scale. No side effects were noted during the aromatherapy portion of the trial. (10)

Aromatherapy May Reduce Anxiety and Blood Pressure
Source: J Korean Acad Nurs. 2009 Jun;39(3):357-365. (link)

You may have noticed that the majority of studies involving aromatherapy tend to evaluate its potential in promoting a more relaxed state of mind. But what about the energy boost I mentioned in the opening paragraph? It’s important to keep in mind that anything that helps you to feel more relaxed has the potential to provide you with more energy. Anxiety and stress are “energy vampires”. The less reactive you are to the stressors in your life, the more energy you’ll have to live life as you please. I like to think of energy levels as a bank account. If you spend less on feeling anxious and stressed out, you’ll have more energy funds to use for other activities.

That said, if you still require more energy then you might have, consider experimenting with jasmine oil. A current study examined the effects of topically applied jasmine oil in 40 healthy volunteers. Those receiving the jasmine therapy exhibited an increase in breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and diastolic and systolic blood pressure. The men and women also reported feeling more alert and more vigorous on the emotional front. The authors of the experiment concluded that, “our results demonstrated the stimulating/activating effect of jasmine oil and provides evidence for its use in aromatherapy for the relief of depression and uplifting mood in humans”. (11)

There are a number of ways to administer aromatherapy in your daily life. You can find diffusers and inhalers at many health food stores and online. Some people prefer carrying a small bottle of essential oil in a backpack or purse instead. They simply add a drop or two to a tissue and inhale it whenever they feel the need. But before embarking on a serious trial using essential oils, you should first determine how they affect you as an individual. I think beginners should start by experimenting in a controlled and safe environment such as your home. The last thing you want is to feel too relaxed or too stimulated while driving, at school or at work. Please remember than any substance powerful enough to alter your mind-set needs to be treated respectfully.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Mental Health

9 Comments & Updates to “Aromatherapy News”

  1. Alicia Kirschenheiter Says:

    I love this…I am a grapefruit girl myself. I also love lemon. It leaves me energized and renewed.

  2. JP Says:

    Update: The latest review about the health benefits of bergamot oil …

    Front Pharmacol. 2015 Mar 2;6:36.

    Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application.

    “Conclusion: Bergamot essential oil has been traditionally used in Italian folk medicine for magisterial, handcrafted, and homemade preparations that are intended for topical use as antiseptics for the disinfection of skin and as aids for healing minor wounds. BEO is generally well tolerated, but it possesses photosensitive properties because of the presence of furocoumarins, especially 5-MOP. Therefore, in topical preparations, psoralen-free essential oil was used in recent decades. As a consequence of this and because of safety concerns related to furocoumarins, the use of high quality controlled psoralen-free BEO is recommended as a general precaution. However, although the oil has been used extensively for many years, there have only been a few reports of phototoxic reactions to bergamot aromatherapy oil.

    Several biological activities of BEO were shown, such as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and analgesic effects, including effects on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. Even though these effects indicate potential clinical applications for BEO in the future, to date, only clinical studies investigating aromatherapy effects have been published. The latter were carried out primarily to investigate anxiolytic effects and the reduction of stress responses. They indicate that treatment with BEO in aromatherapy can be useful to reduce anxiety and stress effects.”

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 04/20/15:

    BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2015, 15:93

    Comparison of the efficacy of aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy for the treatment of dementia-associated agitation

    Background: One of the most common symptoms observed in patients with dementia is agitation, and several non-pharmacological treatments have been used to control this symptom. However, because of limitations in research design, the benefit of non-pharmacological treatments has only been demonstrated in certain cases. The purpose of this study was to compare aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy with respect to their effects on agitation in patients with dementia.

    Methods: In this experimental study, the participants were randomly assigned to three groups: 56 patients were included in the aroma-acupressure group, 73 patients in the aromatherapy group, and 57 patients in the control group who received daily routine as usual without intervention. The Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) scale and the heart rate variability (HRV) index were used to assess differences in agitation. The CMAI was used in the pre-test, post-test and post-three-week test, and the HRV was used in the pre-test, the post-test and the post-three-week test as well as every week during the four-week interventions.

    Results: The CMAI scores were significantly lower in the aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy groups compared with the control group in the post-test and post-three-week assessments. Sympathetic nervous activity was significantly lower in the fourth week in the aroma-acupressure group and in the second week in the aromatherapy group, whereas parasympathetic nervous activity increased from the second week to the fourth week in the aroma-acupressure group and in the fourth week in the aromatherapy group.

    Conclusions: Aroma-acupressure had a greater effect than aromatherapy on agitation in patients with dementia. However, agitation was improved in both of the groups, which allowed the patients with dementia to become more relaxed. Future studies should continue to assess the benefits of aroma-acupressure and aromatherapy for the treatment of agitation in dementia patients.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 05/30/15:

    Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2015 Apr 25;17(4):e25880.

    Lavender fragrance essential oil and the quality of sleep in postpartum women.

    BACKGROUND: Labor and delivery is a stressful stage for mothers. During these periods, sleep-related disorders have been reported. The problems of inadequate sleep include decrease in concentration, judgment, difficulty in performing daily activities, and an increase in irritability. Even the effects of moderate sleep loss on life and health quality can be similar to sleep deprivation. some research aggravated by aromatherapy on sleep quality in different periods of life so might be useful for the improve of sleep quality in postpartum women.

    OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to determine the effect of aromatherapy on the quality of sleep in postpartum women. The sample was recruited from medical health centers of Zanjan University of Medical Sciences.

    PATIENTS AND METHODS: This study was a randomized clinical trial with the control group. A total of 158 mothers in postpartum period (with certain inclusion criteria) were enrolled in the study and assigned randomly to two groups of control and intervention. Lavender fragrance (made by Barij Essence Pharmaceutical Co.) was used by participants in the intervention group nightly before sleeping. The fragrance was dropped on cotton balls, which were placed on a cylindrical container at mothers’ disposal. Keeping the container at a projected distance of 20 cm, the participants inhaled 10 deep breaths and then the container was placed beside their pillow until morning. This procedure was done 4 times a week for 8 weeks. For the control group, the same intervention was done with the placebo. The instrument for collecting data was Pittsburgh sleep quality index, which was completed at the baseline, fourth, and eighth weeks after the intervention. Data were analyzed using independent t test and repeated measures analysis of variance calculated by SPSS16.

    RESULTS: Before the intervention, there were no significant differences between mothers in two groups (P > 0.05). After 8 weeks follow up, a significant improvement appeared in mothers’ sleep quality in the intervention group. Aromatherapy increased sleep quality mean score (±SD) from 8.2911 (± 2.1192) to 6.7975 (± 2.3663) (P < 0.05), but in the control group sleep quality mean score (±SD) changes from 8.4557 (± 2.3027) to 7.5696 (± 1.1464) (P > 0.05). Comparing sleep quality between control and intervention groups after 8 weeks from the beginning of the intervention indicated that aromatherapy was effective in the improvement of mothers’ sleep quality (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Considering the effects of aromatherapy on the improvement of mother's sleep quality during postpartum period, aromatherapy has been suggested as a non-pharmacological method for the improvement of the maternal health. Be well! JP

  5. JP Says:

    Update 06/10/15:

    Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):396-404.

    Effects of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and health-related quality of life in women with breast cancer.

    OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of inhaled ginger aromatherapy on nausea, vomiting and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in chemotherapy breast cancer patients.

    DESIGN: Single-blind, controlled, randomized cross-over study. Patients received 5-day aromatherapy treatment using either ginger essential oil or fragrance-matched artificial placebo (ginger fragrance oil) which was instilled in a necklace in an order dictated by the treatment group sequence.

    SETTING: Two oncology clinics in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: VAS nausea score, frequency of vomiting and HRQoL profile (EORTC QLQ-C30 scores).

    RESULTS: Sixty female patients completed the study (age=47.3±9.26 years; Malay=98.3%; on highly emetogenic chemotherapy=86.7%). The VAS nausea score was significantly lower after ginger essential oil inhalation compared to placebo during acute phase (P=0.040) but not sustained for overall treatment effect (treatment effect: F=1.82, P=0.183; time effect: F=43.98, P<0.001; treatment×time effect: F=2.04; P=0.102). Similarly, there was no significant effect of aromatherapy on vomiting [F(1, 58)=0.29, P=0.594]. However, a statistically significant change from baseline for global health status (P<0.001) was detected after ginger essential oil inhalation. A clinically relevant 10 points improvement on role functioning (P=0.002) and appetite loss (P<0.001) were also documented while patients were on ginger essential oil.

    CONCLUSION: At present time, the evidence derived from this study is not sufficiently convincing that inhaled ginger aromatherapy is an effective complementary therapy for CINV. The findings for HRQoL were however encouraging with significant improvement in several domains.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:

    J Caring Sci. 2015 Jun 1;4(2):135-41.

    Effect of Inhalation of Aroma of Geranium Essence on Anxiety and Physiological Parameters during First Stage of Labor in Nulliparous Women: a Randomized Clinical Trial.

    INTRODUCTION: Anxiety increases significantly during labor, especially among nulliparous women. Such anxiety may affect the progress of labor and physiological parameters. The use of essential oils of aromatic plants, or aromatherapy, is a non-invasive procedure that can decrease childbirth anxiety. This study examined the effect of inhalation of the aroma of geranium essential oil on the level of anxiety and physiological parameters of nulliparous women in the first stage of labor.

    METHODS: In study, was carried out on 100 nulliparous women admitted to Bent al-Hoda Hospital in the city of Bojnord in North Khorasan province of Iran during 2012-2013. The women were randomly assigned to two groups of equal size, one experimental group (geranium essential oil) and one control (placebo) group. Anxiety levels were measured using Spielberger’ questionnaire before and after intervention. Physiological parameters (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respiratory rate, pulse rate) were also measured before and after intervention in both groups. Data analysis was conducted using the x2 test, paired t-test, Mann-Whitney U test, and Wilcox on test on SPSS 11.5.

    RESULTS: The mean anxiety score decreased significantly after inhalation of the aroma of geranium essential oil. There was also a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

    CONCLUSION: Aroma of essential oil of geraniums can effectively reduce anxiety during labor and can be recommended as a non-invasive anti-anxiety aid during childbirth.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 09/17/15:

    J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Sep 14.

    Effect of Lemongrass Aroma on Experimental Anxiety in Humans.

    OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential anxiolytic effect of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) aroma in healthy volunteers submitted to an anxiogenic situation.

    DESIGN: Forty male volunteers were allocated to four different groups for the inhalation of lemongrass essential oil (test aroma: three or six drops), tea tree essential oil (control aroma: three drops), or distilled water (nonaromatic control: three drops). Immediately after inhalation, each volunteer was submitted to an experimental model of anxiety, the video-monitored version of the Stroop Color-Word Test (SCWT).

    OUTCOME MEASURES: Psychologic parameters (state anxiety, subjective tension, tranquilization, and sedation) and physiologic parameters (heart rate and gastrocnemius electromyogram activity) were evaluated before the inhalation period and before, during, and after the SCWT.

    RESULTS: Individuals exposed to the test aroma (three and six drops), unlike the control groups, presented a reduction in state anxiety and subjective tension, immediately after treatment administration. In addition, although they presented an anxious response to the task, they completely recovered from it in 5 min, unlike the control groups. Physiologic alterations along the test were not prevented by any treatment, in the same way as has previously been observed for diazepam.

    CONCLUSIONS: Although more investigations are necessary to clarify the clinical relevance of lemongrass essential oil as an anxiety treatment, this work shows that very brief exposure to this aroma has some perceived anxiolytic effects.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 1/26/16:

    Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Nov-Dec;20(6):661-4.

    The effect of aromatherapy by essential oil of orange on anxiety during labor: A randomized clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Labor is a stressful situation that may have an adverse impact. Aromatherapy is a method to control anxiety and stress of women. This study was conducted to investigate the effect of aromatherapy using essential oil of orange on women’s anxiety during labor.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: In this clinical trial study, 100 women during labor were randomly assigned to two groups: intervention group and control group. The women in the intervention group were exposed to orange essential oil, but the women in the control group were exposed to distilled water. The women’s anxiety was assessed using the Spielberger inventory. Moreover, physiological parameters such as systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respiration and pulse rates were assessed in all the women before and 20 min after the intervention. The data were analyzed by Chi-square, Wilcoxon, paired t-test, and Mann-Whitney U test. Data were evaluated with the SPSS 16 program. The significance level of P < 0.05 was considered. RESULTS: The level of anxiety of women in both intervention (P = 0.03) and control (P = 0.003) groups reduced after the intervention. However, the reduction was more in the intervention group (difference in anxiety scores after the intervention in comparison to before intervention = -3.08) in comparison to the control group (score = -1.14). No significant change was found in the physiological parameters of women in the intervention group after the intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Aromatherapy is a noninvasive and effective method to help women overcome their anxiety during labor. Orange scent can be useful in childbirth units to help women who are experiencing stress in labor. Be well! JP

  9. JP Says:

    Updated 04/05/16:

    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:7896081.

    Effect of Inhalation of Aromatherapy Oil on Patients with Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    This study aimed to investigate the effects of aromatherapy oil inhalation on symptoms, quality of life, sleep quality, and fatigue level among adults with perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR). Fifty-four men and women aged between 20 and 60 were randomized to inhale aromatherapy oil containing essential oil from sandalwood, geranium, and Ravensara or almond oil (the placebo) for 5 minutes twice daily for 7 days. PAR symptoms determined by Total Nasal Symptom Score (TNSS), the Rhinoconjunctivitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ), sleep quality by Verran Synder-Halpern (VSH) scale, and fatigue level by Chalder Fatigue Scale (CFS) were assessed before and after intervention period. Compared with the placebo, the experimental group showed significant improvement in TNSS, especially in nasal obstruction. The aromatherapy group also showed significantly higher improvements in total score of RQLQ and CFS. These findings indicate that inhalation of certain aromatherapy oil helps relieve PAR symptoms, improve rhinitis-specific quality of life, and reduce fatigue in patients with PAR. In conclusion, inhalation of aromatherapy essential oil may have potential as an effective intervention to alleviate PAR.

    Be well!


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