Scientific Evidence Supports Aromatherapy to Reduce Stress

Life is stressful. Although some stress is not a bad thing, experiencing too much stress can be damaging to your health. What are some ways you de-stress? Have you ever considered aromatherapy? Scientific evidence supports the use of aromatherapy as a "de-stressor" that can help your body experience lower levels of stress. 

What is aromatherapy? 

Aromatherapy is using naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to promote health. Aromatherapy has been around for quite some time but have you ever thought about whether it was actually effective in reducing stress and if it could be helpful for you?

With the rising levels of stress noted amongst Canadians, it is worth considering non-pharmaceutical options to reduce stress levels. Stress affects your body in very negative ways, both physically and mentally. Stress can contribute to physical health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and even cancer. Experiencing high levels of stress also impacts your mental health and can lead to changes in your thinking and emotions and can cause depression or anxiety.

As we all know, prevention is the most effective method in reducing stress and the associated negative consequences but it is impossible to avoid all the stressors in your life. The popular and trendy aromatherapy approach can help you reduce the levels of stress your body experiences. You may wonder what evidence supports this claim? Several scientific studies found aromatherapy to be useful in reducing not only stress levels but also reducing anxiety and depression and improving mood.

The scientific evidence:

A systematic review conducted by Herz (2009) examined olfactory effects on mood, physiology and behavior. Diego et al (1998) found lavender and rosemary oil increased relaxation and decreased anxiety. Other studies also examining lavender oil had similar findings that lavender decreased negative mood and arousal during stressful situations. Peppermint is another odor that has been found to reduce stress. A study by Raudenbush et al., (2002) found peppermint odor reduced perceived workload and effort and increased self-rated physical performance. Performance on difficult cognitive tasks improved after exposure to peppermint aroma (Ho & Spence, 2005). Peppermint tea also reduced fatigue and depression (Goel & Lao, 2006).

The table below summarizes findings from this systematic review.

  • Consider rosemary essential oils while performing tasks that require a lot of memory usage such as work meetings.

The scientific evidence supports the use of aromatherapy for relaxation and decreasing anxiety and depression. Do you think aromatherapy is worth considering? Some ways to incorporate aromatherapy at home and in the workplace. Here are some examples:

  • Spray some jasmine before a stressful work meeting
  • Make peppermint tea available in workplace lunchrooms to reduce the effects of the afternoon slump and make employees feel energized and ready to take on cognitively demanding work tasks. When working on a very tough project requires high concentration, drink some peppermint tea or spray some rosemary
  • Place orange scented air fresheners around the workplace to increase calmness and improve the mood of employees.
  • If you are having trouble sleeping after a long and hard day of work, take a lavender bath

We’d love to hear your experiences with aromatherapy! What tips can you share?

 

References:

Diego M. A. et al. (1998). Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations. International Journal of Neuroscience, 96, 217.

Goel N. et al. (2005). An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiology International, 22, 889.

Goel N & Lao.(2006). Sleep changes vary by odor perception in young adults. Biological Psychology, 71, 341.

Herz R. S. (2009). Aromatherapy Facts and Fictions: A Scientific Analysis of Olfactory Effects on Mood, Physiology and Behavior. International Journal of Neuroscience, 119(2), 263-290. 

Herz R. S. (2001). Ah, sweet skunk: Why we like or dislike what we smell. Cerebrum, 3 (4), 31.

Herz R. S. (2005). Odor-associative learning and emotion: Effects on perception and behavior. Chemical Senses, 30, 250.

Ho C. & Spence, (2005). Olfactory facilitation of dual-task performance. Neuroscience Letters, 389, 35.

Kuroda K. et al., (2005). Sedative effects of the jasmine tea odor and (R)-(−) linalool one of its major odor components, on autonomic nerve activity and mood states. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 95, 107.

Lehrner J. et al. (2000). Ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients. Physiology & Behavior, 71, 83.

Lehrner J. et al. (2005). Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiology & Behavior, 86, 92.

Moss M. et al. (2003). Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. International Journal of Neuroscience, 113, 15.

Motomura N et al. (2001). Reduction of mental stress with lavender odorant. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93, 713.

Raudenbush B. et al. (2001). Enhancing athletic performance through administration of peppermint odor. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 23, 156.