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Does Aromatherapy Work? Here’s What Science Says

  • Aromatherapy is a popular therapeutic method that makes use of essential oils to relieve certain ailments.
  • Researchers have conducted studies to evaluate the effectiveness of aromatherapy but as of this time, only a small number have validated positive results.
  • If you want to use aromatherapy for treatment, we recommend you seek medical advice from your doctor first.

Aromatherapy, or the treatment of physical and psychological ailments using the fragrance of various essential oils, is a popular trend today. You can use essential oils in a variety of forms. Soaps, candles, diffusers and massage oil are only some of the available products for aromatherapy that claim therapeutic benefits.

While the practice has become increasingly trendy as of late, it’s nothing new. The term “aromatherapy” was coined back in 1937, but its roots date back to the Egyptians — when they first started extracting oils from plants — and possibly even earlier in China. Since those times, oils have been used to enhance mood and heal burns and wounds. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was supposedly a fan.

bottle of essential oil

Some aromatherapy supporters today say these oils are effective for relieving certain symptoms — in some cases, more effective than over-the-counter medicines. They also claim essential oils are safer. But what does the evidence say: does aromatherapy work?

Let’s look at some of the popular aromatherapy essential oils available today, and what science has to say about them.

Does Aromatherapy Work? Here’s What Science Says

Lavender

One area lavender has been widely utilized is sleep. Some research has found lavender can help improve the sleep quality of elderly people (1). Another study found lavender might help mothers sleep better during the postpartum period. Plus, experts suggested it as a non-pharmacological method to improve maternal health (2).

Some experts have found evidence suggesting individuals can use lavender as alternative anti-inflammatory medicine, as well (3). Studies have been done to explore lavender’s ability to fight anxiety, but results were not conclusive.

two bunches of lavender

Since lavender is a popular choice for people with sleep problems, you’ll find many sleep-related products using the aroma. Think things like eye masks and pillow sprays. Even aside from what research says, many people report a calming effect simply because it smells nice.

Orange

Nowadays, using orange oil goes beyond dessert and beverage flavoring. Orange essential oil has become a popular scent for lotions, soaps and creams. In one study, a group of patients with fractured limbs used aromatherapy with orange oil. While it had no effect on the patients’ vital signs, it was able to help relieve their pain (4).

Also worth noting is the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network’s stance on orange essential oil. The natural antioxidants in orange might be beneficial to RA patients. They help to lower inflammation levels by “interrupting inflammatory response in the immune system.” Thus, orange essential oil might be effective in helping manage arthritis.

oranges

Peppermint

Aside from its delicious taste when mixed with drinks and candies, peppermint smells wonderful. It could also have a positive effect in reducing nausea, according to some research (5). In one fascinating study using rats, peppermint essential oil rectified anemia due to diabetes, helped increase leukocytes and platelets, decreased blood glucose and enhanced their antioxidant status — all suggesting peppermint could be of help to diabetics (6).

If you’ve determined that you want to try essential oils, there are countless products out there to consider. You can use an essential oil diffuser or candles to fill the room with a peaceful aroma. There are also bracelets that hold oil, so you can take a sniff as needed. You can find many lotions, balms, and sprays online. You can even use roller bottles to apply the liquid to your skin.

Could aromatherapy be a safe and effective method of healing for you? Yes, but more research is necessary to solidify its efficacy, as the results of many studies still prove largely inconclusive. Research has pointed to a positive impact multiple times (and doesn’t seem to have found that they can cause any harm), and aromatherapy could help you with pain, sleep and nausea. Remember, though, it’s always safest to consult your physician first to be more certain.

 

References

  1. “The Effect of Aromatherapy on Sleep Quality of Elderly People Residing in a Nursing Home”, Faydali, S., et. al., January 2018.
  2. “Lavender fragrance essential oil and the quality of sleep in postpartum women”, Keshavarz Afshar, M., et. al., April 2015.
  3. “Lavendar Essential Oil and Its Main Constituents Inhibit the Expression of TNX-a-induced Cell Adhesion Molecules in Endothelial Cells”, Aoe, M., 2017.
  4. “The Effect of Aromatherapy with the Essential Oil of Orange on Pain and Vital Signs of Patients with Fractured Limbs Admitted to the Emergency Ward: A Randomized Clinical Trial”, Hekmatpou, D., et. al., October 2017.
  5. “Inhaled peppermint oil for postop nausea in patients undergoing cardiac surgery”, Briggs, P., et. al., July 2016.
  6. “Peppermint essential oil alleviated hyperglycemia caused by streptozotocin-nicotinamide-induced type 2 diabetes in rats”, Abdellatief, SA, 2017.

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