Use of aromatherapy as a complementary treatment for chronic pain

Altern Ther Health Med. 1999 Sep;5(5):42-51.


Chronic pain consumes approximately $70 billion per year and affects some 80 million Americans. Increasingly, aromatherapy has been used as part of an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to pain management. This therapy is thought to enhance the parasympathetic response through the effects of touch and smell, encouraging relaxation at a deep level. Relaxation has been shown to alter perceptions of pain. Even if one ignores the possibility that essential oils have pharmacologically active ingredients--or the potential pharmacokinetic potentization of conventional drugs by essential oils--aromatherapy might possibly play a role in the management of chronic pain through relaxation. Clinical trials are in the early stages, but evidence suggests that aromatherapy might be used as a complementary therapy for managing chronic pain. As such, this article examines the potential role of clinical aromatherapy as a complementary therapy in the care of patients with chronic pain. Although the use of aromatherapy is not restricted to nursing, at least 1 state board of nursing has recognized the therapeutic value of aromatherapy and voted to accept it as part of holistic nursing care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Aromatherapy*
  • Chamomile / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Lamiaceae / therapeutic use
  • Mentha piperita
  • Pain, Intractable / nursing*
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plants, Medicinal


  • Plant Extracts