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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).

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: September 04, 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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