Aromatherapy: does it really work, or is it just a sham?

February 27, 2020



Aromatherapy, the inhalation of aromatic plant extracts, has been known for its benefits in restoring or improving health and quality of life.
Similarly to music or art therapy, aromatherapy works with the user to produce a sense of relaxation and offers an opportunity to be relieved from stress. This treatment stimulates and engages with the user’s sense of smell to interact with a part of the brain.
According to, when inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. It can reduce the perception of stress, increase contentment, and decrease levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
One type of aromatherapy is essential oils, which can be used in multiple ways in order to receive desired effects. They can be inhaled directly through the bottle, or used in humidifiers and diffusers. They are natural, meaning they can be diluted and applied directly to the skin to absorb. Another way to use them would be by adding some to a bath, body wash, or shampoo to create a soothing scent.
But that’s not the only type of aromatherapy that brings out the same effects. Candles, incense, soaps, and fragrances produce scents that can relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, agitation, and depression.
A clinical study done by researchers of NIH (National Institute of Health) studied the effects of massage compared to massage with Roman chamomile essential oil. Two weeks later, a decrease in anxiety and improved symptoms were noted in the group that had a massage with essential oil on 103 cancer patients. The group that had only a massage did not have the same benefit.
Aromatherapy has also been known for its physical benefits as well, such as improving sleep. According to, patients were given the choice of lavender, peppermint, or chamomile. Improvement was reported in sleep, alertness, appetite, and well-being, as well as a decrease in depression and anxiety.
While effects and results may vary from person to person, this doesn’t make aromatherapy a sham. The benefits are undeniably apparent, and have the power to change one’s quality of life or overall mood so long as they are open to the idea.

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