Aromatherapy Benefits, Uses, Risks


For decades, it’s been said that the human nose is limited regarding smell, unlike animals. But it turns out that may not be the case anymore. Researchers discovered that humans could distinguish between more than one trillion smells! Which is excellent for those looking for soothing scents to help relax, rejuvenate, and even heal.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils and plant-based aromas for therapeutic value. For example, you’ve probably heard of lavender being used to destress. Why? The compounds in the lavender plant trigger a relaxing effect. That’s an example of aromatherapy at work! 

You might think aromatherapy is a fad, but it’s been incorporated into multiple cultures’ wellness routines for thousands of years. A French chemist officially coined the term “aromatherapy” in 1935. We’ve come a long way. In 2020, the global aromatherapy market was estimated at USD 1.6 billion. Many people worldwide utilize aromatherapy as a regular part of their wellness routine, including for massage. Let’s examine how and why aromatherapy has become a popular treatment option.

What is Aromatherapy Used For?

Oil diffuser on blurred background near candles. Aromatherapy and health care concept.

Essential oils are most commonly utilized in aromatherapy because they are concentrated. It takes hundreds of pounds of plant matter to produce just a tiny amount of essential oil!

People seek aromatherapy for various reasons, including stress, pain, digestive distress, respiratory issues, and more. “When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain,” says John Hopkins. This is one reason aromatherapy massage is so popular. Not only can it be diffused during a session, but many massage therapists will use essential oil lotion blends. 

Using Aromatherapy for Stress Relief

Lavender has been widely studied for its relaxation properties and is arguably the most common scent in aromatherapy. Research also shows lavender may help encourage sleep and fight insomnia. 

Chamomile, ylang-ylang, and jasmine are other commonly utilized scents to promote relaxation and ward off stressful emotions. 

Aromatherapy for Fatigue 

Aromatherapy is one of the most versatile forms of complementary medicine. It has been shown to promote relaxation, and the right aromatherapy tools can fight fatigue! One study concluded that aromatherapy improves fatigue in adults with chronic illnesses. 

The key is to choose invigorating scents like rosemary, peppermint, and lemon. 

Aromatherapy for Headaches

Do you suffer from headaches? Even though those prone to headaches are sensitive to scents, aromatherapy may help. It might sound like pseudoscience, but certain essential oils have potent anti-inflammatory properties. One study found that participants saw no difference between peppermint essential oil and acetaminophen to treat their headaches.

Not a fan of peppermint? Try eucalyptus, chamomile, or rosemary. 

Benefits of Aromatherapy

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) patients incorporate aromatherapy to manage specific conditions: and for good reasons. There are many benefits, and research shows how therapeutic aromatherapy techniques can be when administered correctly. 

Boosting the Immune System

Some essential oils are antibacterial and antiviral, giving our immune system a tremendous boost! Research shows lemon, clove, ginger, and eucalyptus essential oils might support the immune system and enhance our overall immune function. 

A 2021 study found that clove essential oil reduced bacteria in mice’s small and large intestines with food poisoning. The mice’s illness was also less severe than its counterparts without clove aromatherapy. 

The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Aromatherapy

Inflammation is present in nearly every chronic illness, which affects almost 40% of the American population. Aromatherapy has been shown to reduce inflammation, and that’s why peppermint essential oil is so helpful for headaches. Inflammation is also directly linked to our immune system, another reason aromatherapy is a great immune booster.

Thyme, rosemary, eucalyptus, fennel, and bergamot essential oils are touted for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Aromatherapy for High Blood Pressure

Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure – which is a lot of people! In our fast-paced culture, stress is prevalent and can exacerbate high blood pressure. 

Many cases of hypertension are also linked to a poor diet, especially the Standard American Diet, which contains excess sodium and refined grains. Additional risk factors for high blood pressure include being overweight, lack of sleep, and getting minimal exercise. 

Certain smells can help you relax, which may lower your blood pressure. Bergamot, cedarwood, clary sage, jasmine, and lavender are just a few scents utilized in aromatherapy for high blood pressure.

Risks of Aromatherapy

The FDA generally recognizes some essential oils as safe and on the official “Generally Recognized as Safe” list. Basil, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, thyme, peppermint essential oil, and more are on this list. 

That said, certain essential oils pose risks if not administered appropriately.

First and foremost, never ingest essential oils unless you are told to do so by a licensed aromatherapist. Ingesting essential oils can be dangerous and should only be done with trained guides. 

Some essential oil brands claim their oils are “food-grade” and can be consumed, but most experts do not recognize this label and don’t recommend consuming essential oils. Licensed aromatherapists typically only recommend ingesting essential oil in severe cases and minimal, infrequent amounts. 

Some people also experience headaches, skin irritation, nausea, rashes, and other side effects when introducing aromatherapy. You should see a healthcare provider who understands aromatherapy if these symptoms arise. 

Avoid using essential oils around pregnant women and/or breastfeeding children and animals. Essential oils are generally safe, but these groups are more vulnerable and might react poorly to prolonged exposure. 

Find an Aromatherapist

Aromatherapy is an effective tool for various conditions, and with the right provider, you can add this technique to your wellness routine. Aromatherapy is also relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require much to start at home! Just remember to check with a specialist before beginning an aromatherapy routine.

Heally’s online or in-person providers understand the benefits of aromatherapy for stress, insomnia, high blood pressure, and more. Speak to a doctor today!


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