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Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Patient Information [NCI] - Overview

  • Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) as therapy to improve physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being (see Question 1).
  • Patients with cancer use aromatherapy mainly to improve their quality of life, such as reducing stress and anxiety (see Question 1).
  • Essential oils like Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender, or cedarwood are the basic materials of aromatherapy (see Question 1).
  • Interest in aromatherapy grew in the late 20th century as a form of complementary medicine (see Question 2).
  • Aromatherapy may work by sending chemical messages to the part of the brain that affects moods and emotions (see Question 3).
  • Essential oils are most often used by inhaling them or by applying them in diluted form to the skin (see Question 4).
  • Laboratory studies and animal studies have shown that certain essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, calming, or energizing effects (see Question 5).
  • Aromatherapy research with cancer patients has mainly studied its effect on other health conditions and quality-of-life issues such as cancer-related symptoms, stress, and anxiety. There are no studies discussing aromatherapy as a treatment for cancer (see Question 6).
  • Safety testing on essential oils has found very few bad side effects. Lavender and tea tree oils have been found to have some hormone -like effects (see Question 7).
  • Aromatherapy products do not need approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because no specific medical claims are made (see Question 8).
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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