Real Talk: Does Aromatherapy Work?

October 30, 2019

There’s something so zen about walking into a yoga studio, spa, or store that’s got a scent going. Whether it’s a soothing lavender or a vibrant citrus, engaging your nose sets the stage for the space. And it’s not just about branding, either. Lots of people tout the physical and emotional health benefits of aromatherapy. 

Medically speaking, what is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is more than just smelling a certain smell. It’s a holistic healing treatment that uses essential oils with specific scents to activate the smell receptors in your nose. 

Aromatherapy proponents say this activation sends messages throughout your body — through your nervous system to your brain — triggering certain physical and emotional responses. Some say that aromatherapy signals your hypothalamus to kickstart the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy.

But is it legit?

Possibly. The issue here is that studies into aromatherapy are relatively new so we don’t have a ton of conclusive evidence. And yes, we know that’s surprising since aromatherapy has been around as a health treatment for thousands of years. Even so, the medical community only recently started running large-scale studies to test its effectiveness. 

But we’re not solely left with anecdotal evidence. The limited studies that have been conducted did reveal some benefits of aromatherapy, including:

  • Anxiety relief
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Minimization of depressed mood and agitation in people with dementia
  • Osteoarthritic pain management
  • Depression relief

Is it worth it?

While the jury’s technically still out on the effectiveness of aromatherapy, the evidence presented in early studies is enough to get us on board with it, especially since we’ve used aromatherapy ourselves and found it enjoyable. 

There’s something that feels luxurious about diffusing essential oils into your space. Plus, the sense of smell is very closely linked to memory. So we like the idea that smelling our go-to aromatherapeutic scent helps us get back into the relaxation mode we enjoyed last time we smelled it. There’s nothing quite like the scent of lavender or ylang-ylang to take the edge off a long day, you know?

Even if the science behind aromatherapy is limited at the moment, it’s worth taking for a spin and seeing what it does for you. 


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