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Aromatherapy Studies on Essential Oil Properties

Aromatherapy studies - the science of aromatherapy and evidence of aromatherapy essential oils' effectiveness in folk medicine and psychology. While Aromatherapy is still officially considered alternative medicine, and thus, is not intended to be used as a drug to cure, prevent, or heal, there is much scientific evidence to support its use for overall well-being, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Aromatherapy Research from the Univeristy of Minnesota:

Studies on Essential Oils show them to have postivie effects on a variety of health concerns including: infections, pain, anxiety, stress, premenopause, nausea, depression and many more!  Some can even be helpful for people who are trying to quit smoking!

Anti-microbial Effects of Essential Oils

Burt, S. A. (2003). Antibacterial activity of selected plant essential oils against Escherichia coli O157:H7. Letters in Applied Microbiology 36, 162-7.

The research studied the antibacterial properties of five essential oils (EO) on Escherichia coli O157:H7. The results show that oregano and thyme EO have significant in vitro colicidal and colistatic properties and are exhibited in a broad temperature range. The effects were greatly improved by the addition of agar as stabilizer. Bay and clove bud EO are shown less active in reducing the number of E.coli O157:H7.

Inouye, S., Yamaguchi, H. (2001). Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their major constituents against respiratory tract pathogens by gaseous contact. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 47, 565-73.

The antibacterial activity of fourteen essential oils and their major constituents in the gaseous state were evaluated against four different bacteria by Inouge and Yamaguchi (2001). The authors found H. Influenzae to be most susceptible to most essential oils examined. The research also indicated that the antibacterial action of essential oils was most effective when at high vapour concentration for a short time.

Sherry, E., Warnke, P. H. (2001). Percutaneous treatment of chronic MRSA osteomyelitis with a novel plant-derived antiseptic. BMC Surgery 1(1).

The single case clinical report described the use of a polytoxinol (PT) antimicrobial, a complex mixture whose major components are tea tree oil and eucalyptus to cure an intractable methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection of the lower tibia in an adult male. The study introduced a cheap, simple technique as a possible alternative to long-term systemic antibiotic therapy when administered percutaneously.

Benencia, F. (1999). Antiviral activity of sandalwood oil against Herpes simplex viruses-1 and -2. Phytomedicine 6(2), 119-23.

The study tested the antiviral activity of sandalwood oil, the essential oil of Santalum album L against Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2). Results demonstrated dose-dependent effect of sandalwood oil in inhibiting the replication of virus, and more significantly against HSV-1. The results also indicate a possible chemopreventive action of sandalwood oil against carcinogenesis.

Hammer, K. A., Riley, T. V. (1999). Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and other plant extracts. Journal of Applied Microbiology 86, 985-90.

Hammer et al. investigated 52 plant oils and extracts for their antimicrobial activity(1999). They found that the essential oils extracted from lemongrass, oregano and bay inhibited all organisms at concentrations of <=2.0% (v/v). The study also found the antimicrobial effect of thyme oil against C. albicans and E. coli at the lowest minimum inhibitory concentration of 0.03% (v/v).

Chinou, I. B., Perdetzoglou, D., Tzakou, O., & Loukis, A. (1996). Chemical and antibacterial studies of two Helichrysum species of Greek origin. Planta Medica 63, 181-3.

Chinou et al (1996) studied the antibacterial activity of the essential oils obtained from the aerial parts of two Helichrysum species. The authors collected the plants during their flowering period and thirty-nine constituents were identified and quantified from the total oil. Six bacterial strains were tested. It was found that oils exhibited significant antibacterial activity against the six Gram () bacteria. ±

Hayashi, K., & Hayashi, T. (1994). Virucidal effects of the steam distilate from Houttuynia cordata and its components on HSV-1, influenza virus, and HIV. Planta Medica. 61, 237-41.

The anti-inflammatory activities of the water extract of dried plants of Houttuynia cordata was investigated by Hayashi et al (1994). The authors found the essential oils (Saururaceae) to have direct inhibitory activity against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), influenza virus, and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) without showing cytotoxicity, although it was not shown to have direct impact against poliovirus and coxsackie-virus.

Aromatherapy Studies on Pain Relief

Burns, E., Blamey, C., Ersser, S. J., Barnetson, L., & Lloyd, A. (2000). An investigation into the use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery Practice. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 6(2), 141-7.

The maternal comfort of 8058 mothers who presented in labor at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital Women’s Center between 1990 and 1998 were evaluated after being offered aromatherapy comparing with those in a comparison group from the unit audit not given aromatherapy (n=15,799). The results indicate that aromatherapy offered a potentially effective therapy during labor to relieve anxiety, pain, nausea, or poor contractions.

Ghelardini, C., Galeotti, N., Salvatore, G., & Mazzanti, G. (1999). Local anaesthetic activity of the essential oil of lavandula augustifolia. Planta Medica, 65, 700-3.

The study compared the local anaesthetic activity of the essential oils obtained from Lavandula angustifolia Mill and two citrus fruits. The essential oils of L. angustifolia and its two major pure components, but not the oils of Citrus reticulata and Citrus lemon were found to be able to reduce the electrically evoked contractions of rat phrenic-hemidiaphragm greatly in a dose-dependent manner.

Pittler, M. H., Ernst, E. (1998). Peppermint oil for irritable bowel syndrome: a critical review and metaanalysis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 93(7), 1131-5.

The results of a meta-anlysis of five double blind, placebo-controlled RCTs indicate that peppermint oil had a significant effect in improving symptoms of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, due to the methodological flaws of most of the studies reviewed, conclusions about the role of peppermint oil in the symptomatic treatment of IBS could not be drawn.

Dale, A., Cornwell, S. (1994). The role of lavender oil in relieving perineal discomfort following childbirth: A blind randomized clinical trial. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 19:89-96.

The single-blind clinical trial randomized 635 mothers into three groups using pure lavender oil, a synthetic lavender oil, and an inert substance as a bath additive respectively for 10 days following normal childbirth. The analysis results of daily discomfort scores showed no statistically significant difference between groups. However, women using lavender oil as a bath additive had lower mean discomfort scores between the 3rd and 5th days, when the mother usually experienced the highest discomfort.

Gobel, H., Schmidt, G., Soyka, D. (1994). Effect of peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations on neurophysiological and experimental algesimetric headache parameters. Cephalalgia, 14, 228-34.

Thirty two healthy males were included in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study with a cross-over design. The study found that the combination peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and ethanol had significant muscle and mental relaxing effect, which increased cognitive performance. However, little influence on pain sensitivity was indicated.

Sharma, J. N., Srivastaba, K. C., Gan, E. K. (1994). Suppressive effects of eugenol and ginger oil on arthritic rats. Pharmacology, 49, 314-8.

The study evaluated the effect of eugenol and ginger oil on induced chronic adjuvant arthritis in rats. The study demonstrated the suppressive effect of ginger oil (ingwerol) and eugenol on severe knee and paw arthritis in rats. The findings indicate that eugenol and ginger oil have potent anti-inflammatory and/or antirheumatic properties.

Srivasta, K. C., Mustafa, T. (1992). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in Rheumatism and Musculoskeletal Disorders. Medical Hypotheses, 39, 342-8.

The questionnaire-based open-trial involving 56 patients evaluated the effects of ginger in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and muscular discomfort. More than 75 percent of the arthritis patients experienced relief in pain and swelling to varying degree and all the patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief in pain. The mechanism of ginger’s ameliorative effects could be due to inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosyntheis.

Aromatherapy Studies on the Psychological Effects of Essential Oils

Alexandrovich, I., Rakovitskaya, O., Kolmo, E., Sidorova, T., Shushunov, S. (2003). The effect of fennel (Foeniculum Volgare) seed oil emulsion in infantile colic: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9(4), 58-61.

This double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial evaluated the effectiveness of fennel seed oil emulsion in infantile colic. The results showed that the colic of 65% of the infants in the treatment group was eliminated comparing with 23.7% in the control group and the difference was statistically significant. The study indicates that fennel seed oil emulsion is superior to placebo in decreasing intensity of infantile colic.

Ballard, C. G., O’Brien, J. T., Reichelt, K., Perry, E. K. (2002). Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 63, 553-8.

Ballard et al (2002) conducted the first double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy of aromatherapy for the treatment of behavioral and psychological symptoms in dementia (BPSD). Seventy one patients completed the trial. Patients received aromatherapy experienced significant improvement in agitation and quality of life comparing with the control group.

Lucks, B. C., Sorensen, J., Veal, L. (2002). Vitex agnus-castus essential oil and menopausal balance: a self-care survey. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, 8, 148-54.

The authors surveyed 33 women who were in the perimenopausal to postmenopausal transition and volunteered to participate the study. The returned 3-page questionnaires from 23 women indicated that the use of Vitex essential oil (both leaf and berry) helped the majority of respondents relieve their menopausal symptoms to a sufficient degree. The leaf essential oil appears to have a broader range of actions including addressing psychological aspects.

Itai, T., Amayasu, H., Kuribayashi, M., Kawamura, N., Okada, M., Momose, A., Tateyama, T., Narumi, K., Waka, Kaneko, U.S. (2000). Psychological effects of aromatherapy on chronic hemodialysis patients. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 54, 393-7.

Fourteen female inpatients with chronic renal failure were selected to participate the study to evaluate the psychological effects of aromatherapy. Natural hospital smells and odorless conditions were systematically used as control periods. It was found that hiba oil aroma significantly decreased the mean scores of the Hamilton rating scale for depression (HAMD) and lavendar aroma significantly decreased the mean scores of the Hamilton rating scale for anxiety (HAMA). There is no significant difference of the mean scores between those in an odorless condition and those in the control conditions.

O'Brien M. E. (1999). Aromatherapy: a definite mood booster... commentary on Schiffman S. S., Sattely-Miller E. A., Suggs M. S. et al. The effect of pleasant odors and hormone status on mood of women at midlife. Brain Research Bulletin, 1995, 36, 19-29. Complementary Medicine for the Physician, 4(4):26-7.

Two placebo-controlled studies were conducted to evaluate 56 women and 60 men in their middle-age in the Department of Psychiatry at the Duke University Medical Center. It was found that tension, depression, confusion and mood disturbance were significantly alleviated in the presence of pleasant odors, with no effect on physiologic symptoms of menopause for women. For men, fragrance scores were also significantly better than with placebo for all six mood factors and mood disturbances. The findings suggested that the use of pleasing odors has potential therapeutic effect in coping with midlife.

Wilkinson, S., Aldridge, J., Salmon, I., Cain, E., & Wilson. B. (1999) An evaluation of aromatherapy massage in palliative care. Palliative Medicine, 13, 409-17.

Wilkinson et al (1999) studied 103 patients to assess the effects of massage and aromatherapy massage on cancer patients in a palliative care setting. The authors found that patients with massage had a statistically significant reduction in anxiety. Massage with essential oil improve the outcome measurement of physical and psychological symptoms and overall quality of life.

Lis-Balchin, M., Hart, S. (1997). A preliminary study of the effect of essential oils on skeletal and smooth muscle in vitro. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 58, 183-7.

This study examined the pharmacological activity of nine commercial essential oils. The results indicate that certain essential oils (clary sage, dill, fennel, frankinsense and nutmeg) produced a contracture and inhibition of the twitch response to nerve stimulation on skeletal muscle; thyme had a contracture without a change in the twitch response; lavender reduced the twitch response alone and camphor increased the size of the twitch response. The findings supported previous work in showing that essential oils have selective actions on biological tissues and the actions were not non-specific toxic actions on cell membranes.

Dunn, C., Sleep, J., Collett, D. (1994). Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and periods of rest in an intensive care unit. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 21, 34-40.

The experimental study randomly allocated 122 patients into receive either massage, aromatherapy using essential oil of lavender, or a period of rest. The assessment from 93 patients found no statistically significant differences in the physiological stress indicators or observed or reported behavior of patients’ ability to cope following any of the three interventions. But the patients in the aromatherapy group reported significantly greater improvement in their mood and perceived levels of anxiety than those in the other two groups.

Other interesting aromatherapy studies

Oyedele, A. O., Gbolade, A. A., Sosan, M.B., Adewoyin, F. B., Soyelu, O.L., & Orafidiya, O. O. (2002). Formulation of an effective mosquito-repellent topical product from Lemongrass oil. Phytomedicine, 9, 259-62.

The study tested the mosquito repellency of six different formulations of lemongrass oil in different classes of base and the oil in liquid paraffin solution. The repellency exhibited by the 1% v/v solution and 15% v/w cream and ointment preparations of the lemongrass oil was comparable to the of a commercial mosquito repellent.

Dwivedi, C. & Zhang, Y. (1999). Sandalwood oil prevents skin tumour development in CD1 mice. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 8, 449-55.

This laboratory research investigated the chemopreventive effects of sandalwood oil (SW oil) on CD1 mice. The results suggested that SW oil treatment (100ul, 5% in acetone, twice a week, topically) significantly decreased papilloma incidence by 67% and multiplicity by 96% in a concentration and time-dependent manner in the studied mice. It was suggested that SW oil may be useful to prevent chemically induced skin cancer.

Al-Hader, A. A., Hasan, Z. A., Aqel, M. B. (1994). Hyperglycemic and insulin release inhibitory effects of rosmarinus officinalis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 43, 217:22.

Al-Hader et al (1994) evaluated the effects of the volatile oil extracted from the leaves of Rosmarinus officinalis on glucose and insulin levels in normal rabbits. The results show that the intramuscular (i.m.) administration of the volatile oil increased the levels of plasma glucose and decreased the levels of serum insulin significantly comparing with the control animals. It suggested that the volatile oil of R. offcinalis has hyperglycemic and insulin release inhibitory effects in the rabbits.

Rose, J. E. & Behm, F. M. (1994). Inhalation of vapor from black pepper extract reduced smoking withdrawal symptoms. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 34, 225-9.

Forty-eight cigarette smokers were randomly assigned to one of the three groups after overnight deprivation from smoking. Participants who puffed and inhaled a vapor from essential oil of black pepper reported significantly less cravings for cigarette than those in the other two control groups who puffed on the device with a mint/menthol or an empty cartridge. Those in the essential oil group also reported less negative affect and somatic symptoms of anxiety.

Hay, I.C., Jamieson, M., Ormerod, A. D. (1998). Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy. Archives of Dermatology, 134, 1349-52.

This randomized, double-blind, controlled trial assessed the efficacy of essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood) in the treatment of 86 patients with alopecia areata. There were significantly more patients in the treatment group (19/43) who showed improvement than that in the control group (6/41). It was shown that aromatherapy was significantly more effective than treatment with the carrier oil alone in treating alopecial areata.

Our site information is for educational purposes only. Our Site information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information presented from these aromatherapy studies is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.