How Does Aromatherapy Work?

how does aromatherapy work
Photo: Shutterstock

Most people over the age of 15 have heard about aromatherapy. But what is it? And does aromatherapy actually work or help you feel better for certain ailments?

We dug into the question.

Some Basics

Your sense of smell is quite different from the rest of your senses. When the receptors in your nose pick up a scent, the message goes directly to your limbic system. This system is primal, and it’s connected to your emotions. That’s why smell, unlike any other sense, can instantly evoke memories.

Aromatherapy works by triggering those feelings of calm, helping your brain to relax.

Does Aromatherapy Really Work?

how does aromatherapy work
Photo: Shutterstock

Although people think so, and there’s a whole big money-making industry behind it. However, there’s not enough authoritative research to determine their effectiveness in human health.

According to Johns Hopkins, some studies indicate that there’s a benefit to using essential oils while others show no improvement in symptoms. Clinical trials have looked at whether essential oils can alleviate conditions like these:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Low appetite
  • Dry mouth

Bottom line? If using essential oils helps you relax, gives you energy, or offers relief — then go for it. As long as they’re being used to inhale the aroma properly, there’s no harm.

Associating Smells with Memories

Photo: Shutterstock

While there are “recommended” scents for relaxation and sleep, aromatherapy works best when you know which scents calm you down.

Everyone has different experiences and memories, so a scent that works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else. If you associate the smell of eucalyptus with a gym, for instance, it might hype you up instead of calming you down. But if you associate that aroma with a yoga class, then it may well relax you.

VeryWellMind suggests these scents for stress relief:

  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Ylang-Ylang
  • Lemon

Healthline notes these scents that decrease fatigue and increase focus:

  • Peppermint
  • Sweet Orange
  • Spearmint
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon

Yep, there’s overlap where one will supposedly calm you and the other energize. So you need to know which scent works for you.

Narrowing Down the Scent for You

If you’re looking to try aromatherapy, it’s perfectly fine to start with scents recommended by an expert. By experimenting, you can discover which scents work for you and weed out the ones that don’t. Over time, you’ll figure out which aromas are best suited for your long-term use.

Some people use a diffuser for their aromatherapy oils, others choose a vaporizer, and still other practitioners suggest putting a drop in the palm of your hand and inhale deeply as you cup the hand over your nose. Again, you’ll have to find the method that best fits your needs. There is no right or wrong way!

Sensitivity Issues

Of course, not everyone responds well to inhaling vaporized aromas. For some, strong scents can trigger headaches or migraines. But if you have this kind of sensitivity, there are other ways to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.

Consider filling your home with natural scents by putting out fresh flowers, boiling cinnamon sticks, or baking cookies. These aromas are more distilled and dissipate faster than the scents that come from a constantly-pumping vaporizer.

Ultimately, aromatherapy is a very personal treatment. There are hundreds of scents to choose from, and plenty of resources to guide you in finding what suits your needs. Plus, it’s fairly inexpensive and easy to manage. So what are you waiting for?


How Does Aromatherapy Work? — Sources

Very Well Mind
Johns Hopkins
More Health & Beauty Articles