What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy lavenderIn the past decade, aromatherapy has gained considerable popularity in both health care and recreationally.  Essential oils such as lavender and rosemary have been used for thousands of years by healers for various effects.  Aromatherapy in particular refers of these oils being used to treat or prevent disease.

Essential oils are available from various retailers, and can be quite expensive.  They are typically delivered to a patient via direct inhalation, through a diffuser, or topical application.  Each of these modalities is thought to work better for different needs.  Many oils are used in multiple of these ways to treat the same condition.

One example of this is lavender oil, which is commonly utilized to help people sleep.  The oil is often applied to the skin and directly inhaled.  Topical application, in this case, provides relaxation via touch by massage/tactile sensation.  The inhalation stimulates the brain and helps with the release of hormones and/or neurotransmitters, which helps to induce a state of sleepiness.


How does Aromatherapy work?

aromatherapyScientific studies are now researching if and how these oils work to influence the disease process.  A variety of studies have been conducted and many agree that essential oils seem to have an affect on neurotransmitters.

In Alzheimer disease, essential oils have been found to inhibit cholinesterase activity.  Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter involved in Alzheimer disease and the current medications available, such as Donepizil, inhibit cholinesterase activity.  This means that they prevent the break-down of acetylcholine by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase.  Water-pepper oil is one essential oil that also exhibits acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties.

Some other areas that studies are looking at include, but are not limited to: learning, memory, amyloidosis, oxidative stress, and anxiety.


Should I use Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy shouldWhile aromatherapy has a great deal of testimonial evidence, there still is not sufficient scientific evidence to objectively say that it is helpful.  Any side effects or drawbacks of aromatherapy are also not well known, making the answer to this question even more elusive.  Some essential oils, such as wintergreen may cause bleeding in patients taking the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin).

It is important to consult an aromatherapy professional before using essential oils.  It is also important to share your interests in aromatherapy with your doctor.  Many people are afraid of being judged by their healthcare provider when using natural or alternative therapies.  Not only are many physicians open to this, but it also helps them plan accordingly.

Do you use aromatherapy?  Do you have a favorite essential oil?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to connect with us on social media.  Have an awesome weekend and be well.



Ayaz M, Sadiq A, Junaid M, Ullah F, Subhan F, Ahmed J. Neuroprotective and Anti-Aging Potentials of Essential Oils from Aromatic and Medicinal Plants. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2017;9:168. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00168.

National association for holistic aromatherapy. 2017. https://naha.org

Steinhorn D, Din J, Johnson A. Healing, spirituality and integrative medicine.. . 2017;6(3):237-247.

Ying-Ying Chang, Chao-Ling Lin, and Li-Yin Chang, “The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage on Sleep Quality of Nurses on Monthly Rotating Night Shifts,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2017, Article ID 3861273, 8 pages, 2017. doi:10.1155/2017/3861273

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