Aromatherapy Science: The Facts and Research on Scent

Aromatherapy science is a recently created field, with some startling information to share. For many years, practitioners of holistic aromatherapy have claimed that scents and aromas can be used to reduce stress and promote relaxation. However, it is only recently that scientific professionals have started to take a critical, logical approach to proving and debunking the claims of aromatherapy practitioners. Aromatherapy science takes “common wisdom” about smell and mood regulation and takes it into the laboratory, where it can be rigorously tested, and the results have surprised many members of the scientific community.

Aromatherapy science has shown that aromatherapy can strongly and quickly effect mood and behavior. Researchers recently discovered that the introduction of natural scents like lavender and vanilla can significantly reduce anxiety and distress in at least some scenarios. These positive outcomes in aromatherapy science may spell great news for people who are looking for an affordable, easy way to relax both in crisis situations and in everyday life.

The Facts
Under laboratory conditions, mice have been proven to undergo behavioral changes after exposure to certain airborne scents. After having aromatic blasts of lavender and sandalwood oil introduced into their cages, hyper-excited mice appeared calmer. The implications of these kinds of animal studies for human users are yet to be determined, but preliminary aromatherapy science research suggests that certain holistic aromatherapy practices may have verifiable benefits in terms of mood regulation and stress reduction.

The strongest evidence aromatherapy science has produced in favor of the stress reducing effects of smell was in a recent study on anxiety in hospital patients. In a study conducted at Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital, the scent of vanilla was shown to help reduce stress related to claustrophobia 63% during MRI scans. This is a dramatic statistic, and has helped raise interest in aromatherapy science in the larger academic community.

Possible Applications
Aromatherapy science has primarily studied the uses of scent in high stress situations, but there may be benefits to including it in your daily life as well. For decades, doctors and scientists have agreed that relaxation is an important part of combating high blood pressure and heart problems, and aromatherapy is one of the simplest stress management techniques around today. Unlike meditation and yoga, which require months or even years of practice and training before you can reap their full relaxation benefits, with aromatherapy the only skill you need is the ability to inhale. Practicing aromatherapy doesn’t even require that you take time out of your day, as you may be able to better manage your stress just by introducing a relaxing smell into your environment. As aromatherapy science gains momentum, expect to start seeing aromatherapy principles in practice in the workplace, or perhaps even in academic classrooms on test day.

Practical Aromatherapy
Now that rigorous research has shown that inhaling a calming scent can help your stress and tension melt away, there is no reason not to give it a try in your own “laboratory” of daily life. To start enjoying the benefits of aromatherapy, try one of these easy tips. To deal with stress throughout your day, try some aromatherapy on the go, and spritz on a quick splash of an essential oil to help you center yourself in a stressful situation. When you have a bit more time, try spending ten or fifteen minutes of quiet relaxation like reading a book or daydreaming in the presence of a scented candle. As aromatherapy science continues to advance, you can look forward to being able to more specifically pinpoint the right smell for your needs, but in the meantime, when choosing a scent for stress management, opt for lavender or vanilla and know that aromatherapy science is on your side.

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