Aromatherapy: Healing With Scents

leavesAromatherapy is a natural treatment. It was used in ancient China, India, and the Middle East. It involves releasing essential oils into the air. Some oils are inhaled. Others are used on the skin or taken by mouth. It depends on the type of oil. The oils are taken from plants and herbs. They are in high concentrations. Many people claim healing scents help a variety of health problems.

Sniffing Through The Scents

Have you ever gone to a massage therapist? If so, you may have noticed a soothing scent in the room. Healing scents are often used by alternative health practitioners. Now they are being used more in health care settings. Healing scents are showing benefits for people who have cancer, Alzheimer's, pain, and surgery. They are also being used in end-of-life care.

Here are just a few examples of how healing scents have been used:

  • Peppermint and ginger oils—inhaled after surgery to help reduce nausea and vomiting
  • Lavender oil—may promote relaxation and better sleep
  • Eucalyptus—has been used to relieve coughs and fight off mosquitoes

Seeking Certified Care

There are thousands of essential oils online. You may want to try them as a therapy. If so, consider working with someone trained in aromatherapy. It is important to know which oils to use. You want to use them safely, correctly, and in the right amounts.

There is no licensing for this field in the US. However some organizations offer certification. One example is the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). Those with a certificate may be licensed in another field, such as:

Your doctor may be able to advise an aromatherapist. Another option is to visit the Aromatherapy Registration Council website.

Safely Using Scents

In general, inhaling essential oils is safe. But some people have allergic reactions and other side effects. It is also not clear what effects these oils have on infants, children, elderly, or people who are very ill.

Use well-known oils (like peppermint). They should have evidence behind them. According to NAHA, labels should say “pure essential oil.” They should also list the plant name. For example, Mentha piperita is peppermint.

Healing scents are becoming more popular. Be sure to use good sense with good scents!

RESOURCES:

Aromatherapy Registration Council
https://aromatherapycouncil.org

National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy
https://naha.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Aromatherapy. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: https://www.ebsco.com/products/research-databases/natural-alternative-treatments. Accessed June 24, 2021.

Aromatherapy and essential oils. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/aromatherapy-pdq. Accessed June 24, 2021.

Explore aromatherapy. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy website. Available at: http://naha.org/index.php/explore-aromatherapy. Accessed June 24, 2021.

Farrar A, Farrar, F. Clinical aromatherapy. Nurs Clin North Am. 2020; 55(4): 489–504.

Fearrington MA, Qualls BW, Carey MG. Essential oils to reduce postoperative nausea and vomiting. J Perianesth Nurs. 2019;34(5):1047-1053.

How do I find a qualified aromatherapist? University of Minnesota website. Available at: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/how-do-i-find-qualified-aromatherapist. Accessed June 24, 2021.

Malcolm BJ, Tallian K. Essential oil of lavender in anxiety disorders: Ready for prime time? Ment Health Clin. 2018;7(4):147-155.

Regulation and licensing information. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy website. Available at: https://naha.org/index.php/explore-aromatherapy/regulations. Accessed June 24, 2021.

Last reviewed June 24, 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 6/24/2021