Aromatherapy

The following is a brief introduction of an ARTICLE entitled, “Aromatherapy Positively Affects Mood, EEG Patterns of Alertness and Math Computations” (July 1998), a scientific research, written by Miguel A. Diego et al, from the University of Miami School of Medicine, Saul Schanberg et al, from Duke University Medical School, and Virginia McAdam et al, from Aroma Therapy Associates. Mention is made of only a few of the multitude of beautiful essential oils available.

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“EEG activity, alertness, and mood were assessed in 40 adults given 3 minutes of aromatherapy using two aromas, lavender (considered a relaxing odor) or rosemary (considered a stimulating odor). Participants were also given simple math computations before and after the therapy. The lavender group showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness, they had less depressed mood (POMS) and reported feeling more relaxed and performed the math computations faster and more accurately following aromatherapy. The rosemary group, on the other hand, showed decreased frontal alpha and beta power, suggesting increased alertness. They also had lower state anxiety scores, reported feeling more relaxed and alert and they were only faster, nor more accurate, ant completing the math computations after the aromatherapy session.
Aromas have been used throughout history for their medicinal and mood altering properties. Aroma molecules have direct effects on human behavior and physiology ranging from activation of memories to changes in mood or emotional states. Although much of what we know about these effects comes from anecdotal rather than empirical evidence, these effects may be explained by the close association between the olfactory and limbic systems.
Aromatherapy has been rapidly gaining popularity. The essential oils involved in aromatherapy are highly concentrated essences extracted from plants through the process of distillation. Each oil is said to produce a predictable and reproducible effect on the user when its fragrance is inhaled. For example, certain oils, such as lavender, spiced apple and eucalyptus, modified EEG activity including increasing relaxation as suggested by increases in alpha power. In another study, it was found that beta EEG activity increased during lavender and decreased during spiced apple presentation. It was also found that subjects exposed to a peppermint aroma were better able to sustain attention as assessed by an increase in skin conductance levels and sustained event related potential N160 amplitude across the attention task. Other studies have supported these EEG findings. For example, one study recorded high frequency bursts in the EEG of subjects who were presented a peppermint aroma during sleep. Aromatherapy research has also shown behavioral changes including improved mood following presentation of chamomile oil, positive affect while smelling vanillin, enhanced attention at performance on visual vigilance tasks following presentation of peppermint aroma, and decreased anxiety and tension following lavender, spiced apple or eucalyptus aroma presentation.

The present study examined aromatherapy effects on feelings of relaxation, anxiety, mood and alertness and on EEG activity and math computations. Two aromas were examined, an alerting odor (rosemary) and a relaxing odor (lavender). After the aromatherapy session the subjects who experienced the lavender aroma were expected to report less anxiety, better mood, and to show an increase in EEG power in the alpha and beta bands suggesting increased relaxation. In contrast, subjects who were presented the rosemary aroma were expected to show greater alertness as suggested by decreased alpha and beta power and better performance on the math computations. For example, in a previous EEG study subjects who were given massage therapy: (1) showed a decrease in frontal alpha and beta power (suggesting alertness), (2) showed an increase in frontal delta power (suggesting relaxation), (3) reported feeling better and (4) performed better in a cognitive task (Field et al., 1996).”
To obtain a complete copy of this article, please contact Touch Research Institute, Nova Southeastern University, 3301 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314.