Does Aromatherapy Really Work? Essential Oils and the Effects on Human Blood Pressure.


Jennifer Mayer


I tested the effect and extent that inhalation of essential oils has on human systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP). Aroma means smell and therapy means treatment. In this form of therapy, inhalation of essential oils is used for treating a variety of ailments such as stress, anxiety, and disease. Stressors such as an injury, surgery, hemorrhage, infection, intense exercise, temperature extremes, pain, malnutrition, anger, grief, depression, anxiety, and guilt all create a stress response in the body. Blood pressure is one element affected by the physiological stress response in the body.  If essential oils are able to reduce the stress response on the body, then essential oils will have a significant effect on human blood pressure rates.


To test this hypothesis I took eight individual's blood pressure before and after inhalation of essential oils to determine if essential oils have an effect on blood pressure. Each participant received a different combination of oils including the control of the unscented water. I choose to use two essential oil blends and Lavender because they are recognized for stress reduction in essential oil treatment guides. The first blend is called Peace and Calming and it is made of tangerine, orange, ylang ylang, patchouli and blue tansy while the second oil is called Gentle Baby and contains rosewood, lemon, lavender, jasmine, bergamont and rose. Participants inhaled each essential oil or unscented water for 2 minutes before moving on to the next. I used grade A medicinal essential oils that are labeled to treat stress.


My results indicate that essential oil inhalation has a significant effect on decreasing both systolic (mean before =  117.875 mmHg, mean after = 110.75mmHg, p = 0.003) and diastolic blood pressure (Mean before = 84.75 mmHg, mean after = 77.875 mmHg, p = 0.002).


Results were consistent with my hypothesis that essential oils decrease human systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This is evidence that essential oils really are effective at relieving the stress response in the human body. Essential oils are an easy and accessible way for many people to reduce stress in their bodies and their lives. One potential problem with my experiment is not comparing the inhalation of essential oils to the inhalation of air and the effect sitting still and taking deep breaths could have on SBP and DBP. However, results from Dayawansa et al. 2003 also demonstrate a significant decrease in SBP and DBP in the presence of essential oil inhalation. Dayawansa et al. concluded that the inhalation of essential oils increase parasympathetic activity and a reduction in sympathetic activity suggesting that my experimental results were valid.


From the result of my experiment I think it would be beneficial to further examine the effects essential oils on other human physiological characteristics such as heart rate, respiration rate, parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous response. The testing of and comparing individual essential oils will give more insight into the physiological effects of essential oils. In addition it would be interesting to explore the effect of essential oils on dermal absorption in addition to inhalation.