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Aromatherapy

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Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) as a complementary health approach. The essential oils are most often used by inhaling them or by applying a diluted form to the skin. Many essential oils are used in aromatherapy, including those from Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender, tea tree, lemon, ginger, cedarwood, and bergamot.

Aromatherapy is sometimes used for insomnia, but we don’t know whether it’s helpful because little rigorous research has been done on this topic.

Aromatherapy is sometimes incorporated into massage therapy for various conditions, such as knee pain from osteoarthritis or pain, anxiety, and other symptoms in people with cancer.

One study of aromatherapy using two contrasting scents, lemon and lavender, in people under stress found that lemon had a positive effect on mood but neither scent affected stress indicators, biochemical markers of immune system changes, or pain control.

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NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: January 2020