Aromatherapy refers to the use of concentrated essential oils to improve psychological and physical health. Natural oils are typically derived from flowers, leaves, and herbs. These oils are either inhaled or applied to the skin to activate certain brain centers. Aromatherapy is considered an “alternative treatment”, but has shown considerable popularity in recent years.

Does Aromatherapy Work?

Aromatherapy has various applications, but is most commonly used to improve mood. A 2016 study found that orange oil decreased the fear response in mice, suggesting that it might be used as an alternative treatment for PTSD. Other studies have shown lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) to be an effective treatment to reduce agitation in dementia patients and to improve cognitive function. Additionally, other studies demonstrated geranium oil and lavender oil to reduce anxiety among participants. Researchers also showed lavendar oil to reduce depression among female college students. Overall, the use of essential oils may provide temporary relief of certain symptoms. Although aromatherapy is not considered a standard in mental health treatment, it may be used as an adjunctive therapy.

How to Use Essential Oils

You can either massage the oils directly on the skin or inhale the scent. You can also add essential oils to your bath or to a spritzer. When using oils on the skin, you want to ensure that the oil is mixed with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or olive oil, or with a lotion. Some of the oils are especially strong and this can irritate the skin. When you find essential oils that you enjoy, try mixing them together.

Diffusers are another great way to experience aromatherapy. With electronic diffusers, you add a couple drops of the essential oil mixed with water into a machine that diffuses a light mist into the air. The oil is diffused through the air, resulting in a pleasant smell. Candle diffusers use a tea light or small candle to heat the oil, which spreads the smell into the atmosphere.


Aromatherapy for Anxiety and Depression