Essential oils and 'aromatherapy': their modern role in healing

J R Soc Health. 1997 Oct;117(5):324-9. doi: 10.1177/146642409711700511.


'Aromatherapy' is one of the most actively growing forms of alternative medicine combining massage together with counselling and a nice odour. Most clients suffer from some kind of stress-related disorder and aromatherapy encourages the healing process largely through relaxation and the relief of stress. Stress is also a major problem in hospitals, hospices and homes for the aged and physically or mentally-challenged. Aromatherapy is welcomed by nurses who want to be closer to their patient and doctors who can refer patients with stress-related disorders who do not respond to conventional medicines. The actual mode of action of essential oils in vivo is still far from known, although there is strong in vitro evidence that essential oils can act as an antimicrobial or antioxidant agent or have a pharmacological effect on various tissues. Studies have shown that essential oils have an effect on brainwaves and can also alter behaviour. It is possible that most of the effect of the oils is probably transmitted through the brain via the olfactory system. Used professionally and safely, aromatherapy can be of great benefit as an adjunct to conventional medicine or used simply as an alternative.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aromatherapy*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Relaxation Therapy


  • Drug Combinations
  • Oils, Volatile