Differences between the physiologic and psychologic effects of aromatherapy body treatment

J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jul;14(6):655-61. doi: 10.1089/acm.2007.0591.


Background: The wide use of herbal plants and essential oils for the prevention and treatment of diseases dates back to ancient times. However, the scientific basis for the beneficial effects of such plants and oils has not been precisely clarified.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of aromatherapy body treatment on healthy subjects.

Design: We compared the physiologic and psychologic effects of aromatherapy body treatment (E), massage treatment with carrier oil alone (C), and rest in healthy adults.

Subjects: Seven (7) female and 6 male volunteers participated as subjects.

Interventions: Each subject underwent 3 trials, in which the Advanced Trail Making Test (ATMT) was given as a stress-inducing task before and after 1 of 3 treatments.

Outcome measures: The State Anxiety Inventory (SAI), the Visual Analog Scale, and the Face Scale were used to assess anxiety, feelings, and mood, respectively.

Results: After the treatments, the SAI score and the feelings of fatigue were decreased, the positive and comfortable feelings were increased, and mood improved significantly in C and E. Furthermore, significant declines in the feelings of mental and total fatigue were maintained even after the second ATMT in E. On the other hand, the cortisol concentration in the saliva did not show significant changes in any of the trials. Secretory immunoglobulin A levels in the saliva increased significantly after all treatments.

Conclusions: We conclude that massage treatments, irrespective of the presence of essential oils, are more advantageous than rest in terms of psychologic or subjective evaluations but not in terms of physiologic or objective evaluations. Furthermore, as compared to massage alone, the aromatherapy body treatment provides a stronger and continuous relief from fatigue, especially fatigue of mental origin.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Aromatherapy*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis
  • Male
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trail Making Test*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Hydrocortisone