Aromatherapy involves the therapeutic use of essential oils via inhalation or on the skin to improve physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being. Essential oils are aromatic constituents of certain plant parts such as flowers, fruits, and seeds. The term essential is used because the oil contains the plant's "essence" or the smell and the taste characteristic of the plant. Rene Gattefosse, a French chemist and perfumer, was the first to use the term "aromatherapy" when he published a book on the subject in 1937.
Speak to our team at Synergy Compounding to select a pure essential oil from our Perfect Potion range.
So how can aromatherapy be used?
We use essential oils in 3 ways depending on the purpose – orally, by inhalation or topically.
What do we know about effectiveness?
The effectiveness of an essential oil depends on the condition you are treating. A remedy might be possibly effective for one condition but likely ineffective for another.
STUDIES SHOW ESSENTIAL OILS POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE FOR
Anxiety. Lavender oil aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage seem to improve chronic and situational anxiety in some patients. The benefits of other essential oils are unclear.
Meta-analyses of clinical trials in patients with chronic or situational anxiety show that inhalation aromatherapy or aromatherapy massage using lavender oil moderately reduces anxiety when compared with control. Most often, the control group received no intervention although some studies utilized standard or routine care. In some studies, plain water or diluted lemon juice were used as controls. Most treatments lasted 1-20 minutes There is insufficient evidence about the effects of other aromatherapy oils.
Dysmenorrhea. Aromatherapy seems to improve dysmenorrhea symptoms; however, it is unclear which essential oils and application methods are most beneficial.
Studies have evaluated lavender, clary sage, marjoram, and rose hip, with variable findings.
A meta-analysis of clinical research shows that both aromatherapy massage and aromatherapy administered via inhalation reduces menstrual pain in people with moderate to severe dysmenorrhea However, there are inconsistent results in research which may be due to differences in treatment methods, duration of treatment, and type of aromatherapy oil used.
Labour pain. Adding lavender oil aromatherapy to standard treatment seems to be beneficial for reducing labour pain. The benefits of other essential oils are unclear.
A meta-analysis of clinical research shows that inhaled aromatherapy modestly reduces labour pain when compared with controls such as usual care only or use of unscented liquids. focused meta-analyses assessing aromatherapy alone in patients located in Iran or assessing only first-stage labour pain in low-risk patients also show that aromatherapy seems to modestly reduce labour pain when compared with standard treatment alone. Lavender essential oil was most commonly used for aromatherapy
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Aromatherapy may alleviate psychological symptoms of PMS such as anxiety and depression. However, it is unclear which essential oils are most beneficial.
A meta-analysis of 7 small and heterogenous clinical trials shows that aromatherapy improves certain PMS symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and fatigue, but not physical symptoms such as pain and bloating, when compared with control. Most commonly, lavender essential oil was used for aromatherapy. Bitter orange and rose have also been studied.
Preoperative anxiety and sedation. Inhaled and topical aromatherapy may help to alleviate anxiety before surgical procedures. However, it is unclear which essential oils are most beneficial.
Two meta-analyses of low-quality, small clinical trials show that inhaled aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage seem to modestly reduce preoperative anxiety when compared with placebo control, usual care, or no additional intervention. Benefit seems to be greatest when aromatherapy is given for 20 minutes or less and when given prior to low-risk surgery. Essential oils that have shown benefit were derived from lavender, rose, eucalyptus, and citrus species.
Stress. Inhaled aromatherapy may help to alleviate stress in healthy persons; however, it is unclear which essential oils are most beneficial.
A meta-analysis of four clinical trials in healthy adults shows that aromatherapy with lavender and other essential oils may reduce subjective measures of stress when compared with control
STUDIES SHOWING INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE FOR
Alcoholism, alopecia areata, atopic dermatitis (eczema), chronic bronchitis, colic, cognitive function, depression, fatigue, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, lymphedema, migrane headache, neonatal apnoea, osteoarthritis, postpartum depression, smoking and stroke.
Although there is much anecdotal evidence and interest in using inhaled aromatherapy, there are insufficient studies available about the clinical effects of aromatherapy for these conditions.
Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Small clinical studies suggest that peppermint oil aromatherapy might reduce CINV when compared with control. (It is unclear if these findings are generalizable to most patients receiving chemotherapy or whether other aromatherapy oils are beneficial.
Dementia. Small clinical studies in patients with dementia were too heterogeneous to be analysed together. However, they suggest that aromatherapy may reduce behavioural symptoms and agitation when compared with control. Aromatherapy regimens most often used lavender essential oil, although lemon balm, orange, and cedar extracts, either alone or as a mixture, were also evaluated.
Insomnia. Inhaled or topical aromatherapy seems to improve sleep quality in healthy people, but it is unclear if it helps to improve insomnia.
A meta-analysis of clinical research shows that aromatherapy improves sleep quality in healthy patients and those with chronic conditions. However, most patients in these studies did not have insomnia. There is limited research regarding the effects of aromatherapy in patients with insomnia.
Menopausal symptoms. Small clinical studies suggest that inhaled aromatherapy may modestly improve menopausal symptoms.
A meta-analysis of small low-quality clinical studies in postmenopausal patients shows that lavender aromatherapy for 4-12 weeks, either alone or in combination with other essential oils, reduces menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes when compared with placebo. However, heterogeneity and small sample sizes limit the validity of these findings.
Postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). Small clinical studies suggest that while aromatherapy does not reduce the severity or duration of PONV, it may reduce the use of rescue antiemetics (anti-nausea medication).
A meta-analysis of 7 small low-quality clinical trials shows that aromatherapy does not reduce the severity or duration of postoperative nausea, but it seems to reduce the use of antiemetics when compared with placebo. In a subgroup analysis of 4 small clinical trials, peppermint aromatherapy was no better than placebo for reducing nausea severity 5 minutes after treatment. Another subgroup analysis of 3 small clinical trials suggests that inhaling isopropyl alcohol seems to reduce the duration of nausea when compared with standard antiemetics. Various other essential oils have been evaluated, but there is insufficient evidence available to determine if any are beneficial.
Postoperative pain. Inhaled aromatherapy may modestly reduce pain after surgical procedures such as the Cesarean section.
A meta-analysis of small clinical trials in patients that underwent Cesarean section shows that adding inhaled aromatherapy to standard analgesia reduces pain for up to 24 hours when compared with standard analgesia alone. However, the included studies were conducted in the Middle East, and it is unknown if these results are generalizable to other geographic areas.
Oral Use. Although oral use is not a standard route of administration for aromatherapy, essential oils are sometimes marketed and used in this way. The safe oral use of essential oils depends on the specific oil being used. Some essential oils can cause severe side effects, including convulsions and kidney failure, when ingested in large amounts (when applied topically in large amounts or on broken skin).
The essential oils used in aromatherapy can be highly concentrated. Applying large amounts of some oils topically or on broken skin can result in significant systemic absorption and adverse effects similar to those seen with oral use.
Some essential oils can cause severe side effects, including convulsions and kidney failure, when ingested in large amounts
Pregnancy And Lactation: The safety of aromatherapy, when used topically or by inhalation, depends on the type of oil, the dose and dilution, and the method of administration. See individual monographs for safety information. The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists recommends caution with the use of the essential oils during pregnancy