Effect of inhaled essential oils on mental exhaustion and moderate burnout: a small pilot study

J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jan;19(1):69-71. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0089. Epub 2012 Nov 9.


Objectives: The objective of this pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of a mixture of essential oils (peppermint, basil, and helichrysum) on mental exhaustion, or moderate burnout (ME/MB) using a personal inhaler.

Design: This was a randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study. Data were collected 3 times a day for 3 weeks (Monday-Friday). The first week was baseline for both groups, the second week was intervention (aromatherapy or placebo), and the third week was washout.

Settings/location: Participants used a personal inhaler at home or at work.

Subjects: The subjects comprised a convenience sample of 13 women and 1 man who each had self-assessed ME/MB.

Interventions: Participants were randomized to receive a personal inhaler containing either a mixture of essential oils or rose water (as used in Indian cooking).

Outcome measures: The outcome measures were a 0-10 scale with 10=worst feeling of burnout, 0=no feeling of burnout. There was a qualitative questionnaire rating aroma and a questionnaire listing perceived stressors.

Results: While both groups had a reduction in perception of ME/MB, the aromatherapy group had a much greater reduction.

Conclusions: The results suggest that inhaling essential oils may reduce the perceived level of mental fatigue/burnout. Further research is warranted.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aromatherapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Helichrysum / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Fatigue / drug therapy*
  • Mentha piperita / chemistry*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ocimum
  • Ocimum basilicum / chemistry*
  • Odorants
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Perception
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Plant Oils
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / drug therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Oils
  • peppermint oil
  • basil oil