The Benefits of Aromatherapy


Aromatherapy uses scented oils to promote psychological well-being. The scented oils are inhaled or applied to the skin.

The scents in the oils stimulate smell receptors in the nose and send signals through the nervous system to parts of the brain that control emotions. Some research suggests that aromatherapy reduces trait anxiety, which is a constant feeling of tension.


Aromatherapy uses the power of scent to promote health and wellness. Its most common use is for relaxation and stress reduction. It can also help with pain, anxiety and respiratory issues. Some studies show that aromatherapy may boost the immune system and improve mood.

Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from plants. They can be used alone or combined with carrier oils. Aromatherapists apply the oils using a variety of techniques. Some popular methods include palm inhalation, a diffuser or a room spray, and adding the oil to a bath. Some people apply the oils directly to their skin or hair.

Before trying any of these treatments, you should consult a healthcare professional who offers complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). They can explain the benefits and risks for your unique situation. They can also tell you whether the treatment will interact with any medications or treatments you are receiving. This will help you get the most benefit from the treatment and avoid unwanted side effects.


Aromatherapy uses plant extracts, usually essential oils, to balance the mind, body and spirit. It can be used topically or through inhalation. A combination of science and art goes into the creation of a beneficial blend.

Inhaling the scents of these oils stimulates the nose’s smell receptors and sends signals to the brain that start a chain reaction in the nervous system. The scents can affect emotions, moods and hormone levels.

Nurses can incorporate essential oil use into a patient’s care plan. Before doing so, they should get buy-in from major stakeholders. A committee that includes interprofessional members should be formed and a policy developed. Nurses should also research best practice aromatherapy models to ensure their facility can implement a successful program. They should then dispense a blend to the client based on his or her specific scent preferences and symptoms. Carrier oils, such as sweet almond, jojoba and grapeseed, are often added to the essential oil for safe topical application.

Side effects

Some people who use aromatherapy for medical purposes report that it helps them feel less anxious or stressed. It is thought that certain oils — like lavender or chamomile — have calming effects. They help lower activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight-or-flight response and physical symptoms such as sweaty palms or a racing heart.

The oil’s molecules enter your nose and travel to special cells in the nose called olfactory receptors. These send messages to the brain that can affect your mood, emotions and other body functions.

Pregnant women should avoid hyssop oil and people with a history of seizures should avoid hyssop and other stimulating essential oils, such as rosemary and spike lavender. Some oils may interact with some medications, including antidepressants and blood-thinning drugs. It is important to talk with your doctor before trying aromatherapy, especially if you are taking any prescription medications or have a chronic illness such as cancer.


Clinical aromatherapy can be effective for symptom management in inpatient and outpatient settings, including critical care, oncology, respiratory and palliative care. However, it is important for nurses to understand the precautions associated with essential oil use because some oils are flammable, cause skin dermatitis and are phototoxic (can cause chemical burns or eye irritation).

It is important to consult a trained aromatherapist, nurse, physical therapist or massage therapist before using any aromatherapy product. They can recommend and teach safe applications, proper dilution and storage.

It is also important to know that certain oils, such as wintergreen, can be fatal if ingested. It is best to purchase all essential oils from a reputable supplier who analyzes them by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. This way, nurses can be sure that they are receiving a pure product and not a synthetic or adulterated oil. The following case reports portray safety considerations, complications and interventions related to aromatherapy.