Health Benefits of Essential Oils in Your Bath

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on March 20, 2024
3 min read

A bath is an excellent form of self-care. The warm water is relaxing and can help with stress or sore muscles. Some people claim that you can boost the benefits of a bath by adding essential oils. The potent plant extracts can add a lovely fragrance. They may have some health effects, as well.

Essential oils aren't the same as other scented products or synthetic fragrances. Pure essential oils are distilled from a plant by steaming or pressing. It can take pounds of the plant to make one bottle of oil. You can use these highly potent oils for aromatherapy, which is the practice of using scents of essential oils to aid in health, especially mental and emotional health. ‌

Essential oils have a fragrance, but there's more to them than just a pleasant smell. The molecules of the oils can move along the nerves in your nose directly to your amygdala, the emotional core of your brain. The oil's molecules can also be absorbed through your skin. Massage therapists sometimes use these products as part of their treatments. The result is that essential oils can affect your mood and can help with some physical symptoms. 

There are many health claims about essential oils, but most of them aren't backed up by scientific data. However, studies show that aromatherapy can help with some mental health conditions or specific physical issues. Aromatherapy is considered a complementary treatment that can be used along with standard medicine or therapy to treat a condition.

Anxiety. Studies show that lavender, chamomile, basil, and frankincense may help with anxiety symptoms. Sweet orange essential oils can provide a mood boost. ‌

Nausea and fatigue. Aromatherapy is helpful for people who have nausea because of chemotherapy or pregnancy. Peppermint, chamomile, and lavender all help ease nausea symptoms.

Pain. Some studies have found that peppermint oil can be helpful for headaches. Researchers also found that the scent of rose, lavender, and frankincense oils helped women better tolerate pain during labor. They had less anxiety and less need for pain medications. Other oils may help with joint pain.‌

Insomnia.Lavender is a popular fragrance for people who have trouble sleeping. People in hospitals have reported better sleep when they had access to lavender aromatherapy.

Experts caution that essential oils should not replace any treatment your doctor has prescribed. Talk to your doctor about adding aromatherapy to your treatment plan. 

If you want to get the benefits of essential oils, you can add them to your bathwater. But it’s important to do so safely. Essential oils are very potent, and some can be irritating to your skin.

Use a carrier oil. Essential oils are not water-soluble, so they won't disperse into the water in your tub. Instead, they float on top and stick to your skin, which might be irritating. It’s better to mix them with a carrier oil to dilute them. Jojoba and coconut oil are two popular carrier oils. You can use vegetable oils, as well. 

Do a patch test. Before using any new ingredients, dab a small amount of diluted oil on your skin. Watch the spot for 24 hours to make sure you don't have irritation or an allergic reaction.

Small quantities. You don't need much of an essential oil to get the benefit. You can mix 3 to 12 drops with a tablespoon of carrier oil. That will be enough for one bath. They may also be enjoyed in bath salts, which you can easily make at home with epsom salt and baking powder.

Check the label. Make sure you're using a quality product. When you look at the label on the bottle, you want to make sure it lists the ingredients, information on purity, and the country of origin. The oil should come in a dark glass bottle, not plastic, because essential oils can degrade plastic packaging over time.‌

There are a lot of scented bath products that smell similar to essential oils. These don't have the same health benefits as the pure oils that are made from distilling plants. Make sure you know what you're using when you add it to your bathwater. Once you have a good quality oil, enjoy your bath and all the benefits aromatherapy can give.