Essential oils are commonly used for a variety of reasons, but is there really any benefit to aromatherapy? Studies have shown that certain smells can be associated with both negative and positive emotions and memories. For example, the smell of a dentist’s office can bring anxiety to some patients but may be overcome with use of essential oils to block the negative smell. Lavender, on the other hand, is a common essential oil used as a calming agent and its use has been studied in a number of patients experiencing different types of stress and anxiety with beneficial results. These studies found that stress and anxiety and their associated effects were decreased with the use of lavender. Overall, people experienced better sleep, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure when exposed to lavender aromatherapy.
It is recommended to use these oils via a diffuser rather than by mouth or inhalation. Some topical formulations are manufactured and are mostly safe when used as directed but stop use if any reaction occurs. Overall, essential oils are associated with minimum side effects when used as directed and for short durations. They act quickly with no possibility of dependence, tolerance, or withdrawal. If only diffused, these oils can be used in addition to prescribed medication with no interactions. If you have any questions ask your primary care provider or pharmacist before using essential oils.
-Erin Coddington PharmD Candidate 2019
Malcolm BJ, Tallian K. Essential oil of lavender in anxiety disorders: Ready for prime time? The Mental Health Clinician. 2017;7(4):147-155. doi:10.9740/mhc.2017.07.147.