Does aromatherapy really work?

Does aromatherapy really work?

Aromatherapy has been used as a form of alternative medicine for centuries. But you may be wondering, does this popular health trend actually work?

Aromatherapy involves the inhalation or absorption of essential oils which travel to the brain through the olfactory nerves. This can affect the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions. Essential oils are extracted from plants to produce a fragrance targeted at a state of well-being.

“I’m all for aromatherapy as long as it makes the patient feel better. People should not expect it to be a cure-all for all medical conditions, but I do believe there is a place for essential oils in the setting of depression, anxiety and insomnia,” says Dr. William Seng Tan, a family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill.

Lavender oil is the most extensively tested essential oil in clinical trials.

“A lot of people tend to know that there are the calming effects of lavender. Depression, anxiety and insomnia are difficult conditions to deal with, and a multifaceted approach should be taken to address them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, as we are all individuals. You should come up with a solid comprehensive plan with your doctor,” Dr. Tan says.

Dr. Tan says aromatherapy can be a useful alternative to prescription medicine in some instances.

“I recently had a young patient who benefited from aromatherapy after having abdominal pain and anxiety-inducing palpitations,” says Dr. Tan.

Clinical trials have revealed varied results. Some people experienced less anxiety, depression, nausea, increased appetite and better sleep after aromatherapy. However, some people did not experience any health benefits.

Diffusers, inhalers and sprays are just some ways to try aromatherapy. Since essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, aromatherapy body wash, oils and lotion are commonly used.

You should check with your care physician before trying aromatherapy.

Are you trying to find a doctor? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin. 

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  1. It would be nice to see some info/reports on other essential oils that can be helping our patients. Many places are using peppermint oil for nausea control.

  2. I am a massage therapist and pharmacist for AAH. I use Lavender on all of my clients when they book for a massage. It is interesting to have them sleep with 10 minutes from the start of the session. I also use various other essential oils for pain management and Parkinson tremors.

    • I am dealing with Trigeminal Neuralgia. I have to wait awhile to see a Neurologist. I have been started on generic Tegretol which is making me extremely nauseous. Do you have an suggestions for using essential oils in a diffuser and topical to help with pain. Thank you

  3. Do you information on oils that would help you stay asleep during the night. Getting to sleep is not a problem.

  4. Aroma Therapy/Essential Oils works great in combination with Reiki Therapy. I am a certified Reiki Practitioner and I use Aroma Therapy/Essential Oils on my patients.

  5. What oils are used and for what purpose? I see some oils at $10.00 a bottle, the same oil, different brand can be $30.00. Its there really a difference?

    • Larry,
      When buying essential oils you need to buy pure essential oils. The problem is some companies say they have essential oils yet they are fragrance oils. 2 good companies that are good are plant therapy and aromatics international. Plant therapy can be cheaper but both companies are good. Both companies also offer Organic oils.

  6. My husband and I have both mixed two drops of lavender oil into lotion and then put that combo on the bottom of our feet at bedtime. We’ve both had success with sleeping better after doing that

  7. For more information about aromatherapy and essential oils within AAH, please visit Integrative Medicine at

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.