Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for health-related benefits. Essential oils are often diffused into the air or administered onto the skin. They have a range of effects, such as improving mood or having a calming effect and reducing anxiety. Some essential oils reduce pain perceptions, while others have antimicrobial properties to reduce the risk of infections.
Aromatherapy has been used in many different healthcare settings, including geriatrics, critical care and dermatology. It has also been used in settings such as mental health, oncology, pediatrics and palliative care. For people who need radiation therapy or have to lie still for lengthy periods, aromatherapy can relieve people's stress and help them relax. Aromatherapy is often incorporated into mind and body practices, such as acupuncture, guided imagery, meditation, relaxation and massage therapy. If essential oils improve well-being and promote healing, this is a goal worth seeking.
Before using aromatherapy, it is necessary to understand which oils can be used safely and effectively. Let's take a look at some essential oils and their effects.
Basil: used to improve concentration and relieve headaches.
Bergamot: helps the urinary and digestive systems.
Clove: is a topical analgesic or painkiller. It can also be used to help prevent nausea and has antimicrobial properties.
Eucalyptus: helps relieve airways if sick with the flu or cold.
Lavender: can be used to help relax and improve sleep.
Rosemary: boost memory
Tea tree: commonly used in shampoo and skincare products
In regards to evidence-based practice, some studies indicate that essential oils are beneficial, whereas others show no improvement. Occupational therapists must use clinical reasoning when deciding if aromatherapy is appropriate and beneficial for their patients or clients.
Reference: Buckle, Jane. Clinical Aromatherapy - E-Book: Essential Oils in Practice. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2014.