We discuss the question of whether aromatherapy for anxiety is effective. In other words, is it beneficial for stress and anxiety?

To get started on examining the desire for  using aromatherapy for anxiety, I visited the websites of the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists and the American Aromatherapy Association. Both sites reveal that there is a path for persons to follow which allows them to become professionals registered with these associations, along with an examination and training; they even have a code of ethics. I learned from these sites that several ancient civilizations used aromatherapy. I also learned more general information about aromatherapy.

For instance, aromatherapy is the practice of using various essential oils with the intent to promote physical and psychological well-being. Basically using an appropriate apparatus, the oil is heated and the vapours release an aroma said to be very beneficial.

They also provided some basic information about aromatherapy.

It is safe and can be very calming.

It has been said that the best essential oils for anxiety are lavender and peppermint. Lavender has been cited for its relaxing effects. The fragrance is calming, relaxing, and balancing — physically and emotionally. Peppermint is one of the oldest and most highly regarded herbs for relaxation and cleansing.

But is there evidence to support the common search of “aromatherapy for anxiety” on our site?

Interestingly, neither of the above referenced websites seem to provide information about research for its efficacy. So I continued and came across an article written by Dr. Cathy Wong, a licensed naturopath and an American College of Nutrition certified nutrition specialist.

Wong indicates that a small study indicated that there may be a benefit for rats, although animal research cannot necessarily be generalized to humans. There was also a small study involving the use of aromatherapy massage being used in breast cancer patients which resulted in some reduction in anxiety. So there is not a great deal of direct evidence.

Ways to get started with aromatherapy…

Kits for aromatherapy can be purchased from your local health food store. But there are others approaches too. For instance, you can simply add a few view drops of essential oil to your bath, or you can add a couple of drops to a tissue paper and then hold it several inches from your face and inhale. You can put a little bit in boiling water and inhale the steam.

Also, what I really enjoyed doing was making my own aromatherapy dispenser for the shower. All I did was cut a little piece of sponge and add a few drops of essential oil. As soon as the steam hits the oil their vapours are released in the shower. This can be a pleasant way to start your day. I purchased a little holder for the shower at Homesense but decided to make my own refills, that way I knew what was going into them. To obtain the purest form, make sure you are using pure oils that do not contain any synthetic ingredients.

So, is the desire to use aromatherapy for anxiety worth it?

Based on the research to date, the direct evidence for aromatherapy is not strong, but if you think about a placebo effect, it refers to someone receiving a benefit because of a drug or something else, not because it has chemical properties that actually produce such effects, but due to the person being under the impression that a particular substance has a benefit. Really, whether or not the chemical properties of the oils used in aromatherapy are actually beneficial, if you find them beneficial, who am I to suggest that you should stop, provided you are following the required steps associated with recovery? For more information about these steps please feel free to sign up for our free newsletter below.

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Wong, C. Aromatherapy for Anxiety. 2012 May 28. Retrieved from September 6, 2012, from http://altmedicine.about.com/od/anxiety/a/anxiety_acupuncture.htm

Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://cfacanada.com/aromatherapy/

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from http://www.naha.org/