Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Aromatherapy (Therapy)
In aromatherapy, chemical compounds in oils are absorbed in the body through skin application and/or inhalation. Oils in certain herbs contain chemical compounds that activate the limbic system.
Effect of Aromatherapy (Therapy) on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
With the right combination of herbs, the calming effects of aromatherapy can help to reduce anxiety.
Research Evidence on Aromatherapy (Therapy)
Several relatively poorly designed studies hint that aromatherapy combined with massage may help to relieve anxiety in people without Alzheimer's disease.5 Another study suggests that aromatherapy with geranium oil might modestly reduce anxiety levels (again in people without Alzheimer's).6
However, in a trial of 66 women waiting to undergo abortions, 10 minutes of inhaling the essential oils of vetivert, bergamot, and geranium failed to reduce anxiety significantly more than placebo treatment.7
In another study, rosemary oil failed to reduce tension during an anxiety provoking task, and might have actually increased anxiety.49
Side Effects and Warnings
Essential oils can be toxic when taken internally, producing unpleasant and even fatal effects. Toxicity studies have not been performed for many essential oil products, and maximum safe dosages remain unknown. ^ Infants, children, seniors, and people with severe illnesses should not use essential oils internally except under the supervision of a physician; healthy adults should only use well established products (such as peppermint oil) for which safe dosages have been determined.
Inhaled or topical use of essential oils is much safer than oral use. However, allergic reactions to inhaled or topical plant fragrances are not uncommon. ^ Furthermore, when applied to the skin, some essential oils might also promote sunburning (photosensitization), raise the risk of skin cancer, or be absorbed sufficiently to cause toxic effects. ^ In addition, one report suggests that a combination of lavender oil and tea tree oil applied topically caused gynecomastia (breast enlargement) in three young boys. ^
- Cooke B, Ernst E. Aromatherapy: a systematic review. Br J Gen Pract. 2000;50:493-496.
- Morris N, Birtwistle S, Toms M. Anxiety reduction by aromatherapy: anxiolytic effects of inhalation of geranium and rosemary. Int J Aromatherapy. 1995;7:33-39.
- Wiebe E. A randomized trial of aromatherapy to reduce anxiety before abortion. Eff Clin Pract. 2000;3:166-169.
- Burnett KM, Solterbeck LA, Strapp CM et al. Scent and mood state following an anxiety-provoking task. Psychol Rep. 2004;95:707-22.