American Journal of Nursing Science
2015; 4(1): 1-5
Published online September 20, 2014 (http://www.sciencepublishinggroup.com/j/ajns)
ISSN: 2328-5745 (Print); ISSN: 2328-5753 (Online)
The use of essential oils as a complementary treatment for
, Komini A.
State Mental Hospital of Attica “Daphne”, Greece
email@example.com (E. Fradelos), firstname.lastname@example.org (A. Komini)
To cite this article:
Fradelos E., Komini A.. The Use of Essential Oils as a Complementary Treatment for Anxiety. American Journal of Nursing Science. Special
Issue: Mental Health Care: Aspects, Challenges and Perspectives. Vol. 4, No. 1, 2015, pp. 1-5. doi: 10.11648/j.ajns.s.20150401.11
Mental disorders occur in people in all countries, societies and in all ethnic groups, regardless socio-economic
order with more frequent anxiety disorders. Through the process of time many treatment have been applied in order to address
this complex mental issue. People with anxiety disorders can benefit from a variety of treatments and services. Following an
accurate diagnosis, possible treatments include psychological treatments and mediation. Complementary and alternative
medicine (CAM) plays a significant role in health care systems. Patients with chronic pain conditions, including arthritis,
chronic neck and backache, headache, digestive problems and mental health conditions (including insomnia, depression, and
anxiety) were high users of CAM therapies. Aromatherapy is a holistic method of treatment, using essential oils. There are
several essential oils that can help in reducing anxiety disorders and as a result the embodied events that they may cause.
Essential Oils, Anxiety, Treatment
Mental disorders occur in people in all countries, societies
and in all ethnic groups regardless socio-economic order. The
prevalence is estimated to be 10% for adults, and it is
estimated that about 20%-25% percent of the population will
suffer by a mental disorders at least once in their lifetime .
In Greece, mental disorders are frequent. Epidemiological
studies that have been carried out in the general population
show that 14%-16% of Greeks suffer from a psychiatric
disorder, with more frequent anxiety disorders. In a study that
was conducted by the World Health Organization, in which
Greece participated, it was found that 22% of those visiting
primary health care are suffering from a psychiatric disorder
during the last month and the importance of prevention of
them is given by the psychiatric community [2, 3]. There are
many explanations of the etymology of the word anxiety
some of them claim that the word anxiety derives from Indo-
Germanic root Angh, which means to constrict, to narrow, or
to strangulate others from the Greek word anchein which
means to strangle, to suffocate, or to press shut . All this
indicates that anxiety isn’t a problem of our time. In a matter
of fact there are several literary reports and antiquity myths
demonstrate that symptoms of what we name anxiety
disorders nowadays were observed long ago. Maybe one of
the oldest examples lies in Greek mythology - the god Pan.
He was responsible for anxiety and was the origin of the term
"panic". Through the process of time many treatments
have been applied in an effort to address this complex health
problem. Aromatherapy and essentials’ oils have been
applied too and have been demonstrating remarkable results
in the treatment of anxiety.
The aim of the present study is to present the use of
essential oils and aromatherapy as a complementary
treatment for anxiety. Moreover this study aims to present in
which cases and how essential oils can be effective in order
to address this complex issue of anxiety.
2. Materials and Methods
The material of study consists of articles and publications
concerning the effect that aromatherapy and essential oils can
have in the reduction of anxiety. Literature reviews as well as
research articles that were found mainly in the Medline
electronic database, the Hellenic Academic Libraries Link
(HEAL-Link) and in the Google Scholar search engine were
used. The literature review was conducted between April and
August of 2014. The search was conducted using the key
words: essential oils, anxiety and treatment.
2 Fradelos E. and Komini A.: The Use of Essential Oils as a Complementary Treatment for Anxiety
3. Anxiety Disorders
The term “anxiety disorders” includes disorders that share
features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral
disturbances. Fear is the emotional response to real or
perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of
future threat. Obviously, these two states overlap, but they
also differ, with fear more often associated with surges of
autonomic arousal necessary for fight or flight, thoughts of
immediate danger, and escape behaviors, and anxiety more
often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in
preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant
behaviors . Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are the
most common mental disorders globally and it seems that
women tend to be more affected by them than men are .
The term of anxiety disorders encloses various categories
included in it, such as panic attacks, generalized anxiety
disorder, social phobia [6-8]. The anxiety disorders differ
from one another in the types of objects or situations that
induce fear, anxiety, or avoidance behavior, and the
associated cognitive ideation. Thus, while the anxiety
disorders tend to be highly comorbid with each other, they
can be differentiated by close examination of the types of
situations that are feared or avoided and the content of the
associated thoughts or beliefs .
Regardless the classification and the various subtypes we
should consider anxiety as a continuous line, which is
inversely proportional to the perception, meaning the highest
levels that one has the less awareness on the surrounding.
Anxiety is a multidimensional phenomenon that affects one’s
life in various ways. The effects that anxiety has can affect
the body, cognitive functioning, behavior as well as the
emotional and social state of the person that is experiencing
Paradoxically, anxiety is a complex and useful mental
function. It generates a range of behaviors that occur in
response to any threat. During the last years, research into the
phenomenology, pathophysiology, and neurobiology of
anxiety disorders has grown so much, that results translatable
into clinical practice may offer hope and help to people with
anxiety disorders .
Through the process of time, several treatments have been
applied in order to address this complex mental issue. The
therapy selection has been under the same reformation as the
perception of health and human body in general. People with
anxiety disorders can benefit from a variety of treatments and
services. Following an accurate diagnosis, possible
treatments include psychological treatments and mediation
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) plays a
significant role in health care systems. CAM therapies have
increasingly attracted the attention of medical doctors and
researchers as well as the public, the government and the
media. Patients with chronic pain conditions, including
arthritis, chronic neck and backache, headache, digestive
problems and mental health conditions (including insomnia,
depression, and anxiety) were high users of CAM therapies.
These disorders are not easily treated with conventional
medical therapies. Of the reported cases of anxiety, more
than 40% patients use CAM [11-14]. In an effort to address
the anxiety disorders and the promotion of mental health
various alternative and complementary methods are recruited.
Nowadays we can come across to pets, yoga and meditation
in the effort to reduce the anxiety levels that one’s
experiencing . Among these treatments we can find
aromatherapy and essential oils and their application to
Aromatherapy is an holistic method of treatment, using
essential oils. Essential oils are volatile and liquid aroma
compounds form natural sources, usually plants. There is
not a standardized definition for what aromatherapy is. The
term “aromatherapy” first coined by Rene-Maurice
Gateffosse in 1928, who was the first to explore the chemical
composition of essential oils in relation to their therapeutic
properties. It is a complementary/ alternative form of
treatment that uses essential oils in order to improve physical
and mental wellbeing, balance and mood. Essentials oils we
can say that include the vital force and energy of a plant or
herb, thus can say that are a pure and natural form of energy
. Due to the abilities that essential oils have they can also
be used for beautifying and therapeutic purposes .
Aromatherapy can be applied in a combination with various
traditional and complementary treatments .
Aromatherapy is wholly dependent on the notion of
chemotypes. This is used to define the biochemically-active
molecule(s) on any number of clinical pathologies. The
combination of this notion with that of the rigor of Latin
denominations, results in a near-perfect knowledge of the
mode of action of essential oils [3-17]. Chemotype indicates
visually identical plants but having different, chemical
components, resulting in different therapeutic properties .
Nervousness, tension and stress, call for the sedative qualities
of aldehydes, the diverse action of ester components on the
central nervous system, and the sympatholytic effects
(calming, dilation of blood vessels, lowering blood pressure)
of some phenylporpanes .
No one can say for sure whether extraction and use of
aromatic material began in India or Egypt. In India the use of
plants and plant extracts as medicines has been continuous
from at least 5000 years ago up to the present day. On the other
hand Egyptians used plants in the same era for many purposes,
from hygienic use to embalming. Greeks, about four or five
hundred years before Christ, made a vital contribution to the
future study of plant medicine by classifying and indexing the
knowledge they had gained from the Egyptians . Despite
the antiquity of essential oils usage, aromatherapy started to
achieve a certain level of acceptance by conventional doctors
in France and insurance companies even paid for treatments,
after Paul Belaiche published in 1978 his study on clinical uses
of aromatherapy for treating a wide range of infectious and
degenerative illnesses .
American Journal of Nursing Science 2015; 4(1): 1-5 3
Essential oils may be found in different parts of the plant.
Common techniques used for the extraction of essential oils
are: hydrodistillation, hydrodiffusion, effleurage, cold
pressing, steam distillation, solvent extraction, microwave
assisted process, carbondioxide extraction. The adopted
techniques depend on the part of the plants where the oil is to
be extracted, the stability of the oil to heat and susceptibility
of the oil constituents to chemical reactions .
The essential oils have internal or external use. There are
few ways in which essential oils are administrated for use in
aromatherapy. Its way has a specific root by which the
essential oil comes through in the body, differs depending the
reason we using it and has different outcomes .
Those ways are: Inhalation: The essential oil enters the
body through breathing. A method recommended for
improving mood and mental wellness and for problem of the
respiratory system. Pads: Pads (compresses) with essential
oils can soothe pain, sprain or swelling and reduce
inflammation. Mouthwashes: Gargling mixtures by essential
oil seems to have the ability to relieve the irritated mucosa of
the mouth. Baths with essential oils provide relaxation, stress
reduction and hydration level of the skin. Hippocrates, the
father of medicine, wrote that the best way to be healthy is
one to enjoy a daily massage with scented bath. Its worth to
be mention that baths and hydrotherapy are applied upon
mental illness from antiquity until about the first half of the
century [21,22]. Perfuming the area: The evaporation of
essential oils is applied to clean the space of germs,
disinfection and antisepsis, Moreover in that way a pleasant
fragrance is filling the place and eliminates the unpleasant
odors in addition to the improvement of the mood. Massage:
The essence of aromatherapy lies upon the transfer of
essential oils into the body through the skin. Some essential
oils are not allowed to come into direct contact with the skin
in their original form, due to toxicity. We therefore need a
substance that will be mixed with the essential oil and will
penetrate inside the body through massage. .
In order to describe better the use of essential oils, we
categorize it in two groups: in these that affect physically the
human body and these that affect human’s psychology. The
first group is further categorized in essential oils that: 1)
affect human body through nervous system 2) affect directly
an organ or tissue. The second group is more difficult to be
defined before the use, as it depends on each human body’s
5. Aromatherapies Applications in
In holistic health all parts of the person, cells, organs, body
systems and emotions affect each other as well as the whole
person . No part or system can be diseased or damaged
without affecting, or causing disease or damage to, the
remaining whole. For example, stress tension can cause
protein to be released from cells. These proteins, elements of
the immune system, cause allergic reaction that result in
symptoms of atopic dermatitis. A connection also exists
between dermatitis and a deficiency of essential dietary fats.
This fat deficiency is also thought to produce anxiety. The
body is quite complex, so holistic analysis rarely is a simple
task. Essential oils have holistic, multi-therapeutic functions:
they work by correcting or regulating many imbalances
Essential oils can affect a person psychology and regulate
emotions. The molecules of essential oils when inhaled,
directed to the sensory cells of the olfactory scheme. Since
each sensor cell flowing minutes setae, which record
information on perfumes, and transferring it into the center of
the brain through the olfactory valve. These cause the release
of neurochemical substances, which may be soothing,
relaxing, and excitatory or cause euphoria. Furthermore,
aromatic particles enter the nervous system resulting in the
relaxation, tranquility, and relieve nerves and hence of nerve
centers in the brain. Due this anxiety, affective disorders,
headaches, migraines can be addressed in some way .
According to literature and research articles, there are
several essential oils that can help in reducing anxiety
disorders and as a result the embodied events that they may
cause. Reported data claim that Piper Methysticum and
Bacopa Monniera are associated with anxiolytic activity in
humans. In another trial on generalized anxiety disorder in
hospital based clinical set up, Ocimumn sanctum
significantly attenuated generalized anxiety disorders and
also attenuated its correlated stress and depression .
As we move on to the literature review more and more
research indicating the positive effects that aromatherapy can
have in the reduction of anxiety. Results from a pilot study
conducted by Jennifer Edge an occupational Therapist back
in 2003 where essential oils applied by a massage session
was shown to have a positive effect on both levels of anxiety
and relaxation over a short term period. Each client was seen
for six aromatherapy massage sessions of 1 hr duration and
an initial consultation session. The massage was performed at
the same time of day and day of the week for each client in a
specific room was allocated for aromatherapy use. Each
client received the same standardized massage technique
from the same therapist although the essential oils were
selected and blended specifically for each session/ individual
In a recent research contacted by Cho and associates,
between August 1, 2010, and November 20, 2010, at the Eulji
University Hospital in Daejeon, Korea, aromatherapy
essential oils were blended with lavender, roman chamomile,
and neroli with a 6 : 2 : 0.5 ratio. Lavender suppresses heart
stimulation and lowers blood pressure; therefore, it is useful
in the treatment of heart acceleration and high blood pressure.
Chamomile has a calming effect and is effective in relieving
anxiety and stress, and neroli has a calming effect and is
effective in treating insomnia. Participants received 10 times
treatment before PCI, and the same essential oils were
inhaled another 10 times after PCI. The results, in summary,
were that aromatherapy reduced anxiety, increased sleep, and
stabilized the BP of patients undergoing cardiac stent
4 Fradelos E. and Komini A.: The Use of Essential Oils as a Complementary Treatment for Anxiety
insertion. Furthermore the anxiety level of the aromatherapy
group was significantly lower than that of the control
group[ 26 ].
According to Dominique Baudoux, essential oils that can
be used to reduce anxiety ans stress are: Citrus Bergamia,
Citrus Aurantium, Chamaemulum nobile, Pelargonium
asperum, Laurus nobilis, Lavandula burnatii, Lavandula
angustifolia, Citrus reticulata, citrus sinensis, Ravensara
aromatic and Canaga Odorata . Moreover according to
Schnaubelt K. a great aroma therapist, among others, anxiety
can be reduced by using neroli, levandula, citrus reticulate,
rosemarinus officinalis and lemon verbena essential oils.
In addition other essential oils referred by Battaglia S., to
front stress are basil, bergamot, roman chamomile, german
chamomile, virgian cedarwood, atlas cedarwood, clary sage,
frankincense, geranium, jasmine absolute, lavender, lemon,
sweet marjoram, may chang, neroli, Melissa, sweet orange,
petitgrain, rose otto, rose absolute, rosemary, rosewood,
sandalwood, tangerine, vetiver, ylang ylang . Shirley
Price, one of the most well know aroma therapist, in one of
her books anxiety may be reduced be using the following
essential oils: basil, bergamot, cedrawood, chamomile, roman,
clary, geranium, levander, lemon, marjoram, Melissa, myrrh,
neroli, sweet orange, patchouli, petitgrain, rose otto,
rosewood, thyme, valerian, vetiver and ylang ylang. In
another book of the same writer, the following essential oils
are referred as balancing, calming, and uplifting:
chamaemelum nobile, citurs aurantium, citrus bergamia,
lavandula angustifolia, lavandula intermedia, origanum
marjorana, pelargonium graveolens .
In fact levanter essential oil has been applied in various
populations. Results from a study showed that aromatherapy
inhalation (a mixture of Lavender and Rose essences) has a
noticeable effect on the decreasing of symptoms of anxiety
among female students who are living in the dorm. The
aromatherapy led to reduction of students’ anxiety after
applying it in the second and fourth week .
Despite the fact that sometimes complementary treatments
such us aromatherapy are addressed with criticism didn’t stop
researchers to applied them in various group of patients. For
example anxiety symptoms could be found in cancer patients
as a psychological effect of their severe illness in many cases
in which a complementary treatment could be used to address
those symptoms. According to a study in 2007 a four weekly
sessions of aromatherapy massage improves clinical anxiety
and/or depression experienced by cancer patients up to 2
weeks after the end of the intervention. Although
improvement in self-reported anxiety was evident up to 6
weeks post intervention, no evidence of benefit for
aromatherapy massage on pain, insomnia, nausea and
vomiting, or global quality of life at either assessment point
were found .
As we see, according to bibliography and scientific essays,
essential oils can be used individually or combined according
to their chemo type, in aromatherapy massage treatments or
in sessions of inhalation, in order to reduce stress and anxiety
as an effective complementary therapy.
Aromatherapy is not a new age therapeutic technique, its
origin can be traced back in ancient time and as all
complementary treatments its use has been increased over
the years. There are different ways and many in number
essential oils that can be applied depending on the condition.
Literature review and most of the researches have shown
that aromatotherapy causes various actions favorable for
patients such as relaxation, reductions in anxiety,
depression and fatigue, and improvements in quality of life
via nervous, endocrine, immune, and circulatory systems,
there for could be applied as a complementary therapy for
people with anxiety symptoms. However, as all the
complementary treatments, it should not overlap the
doctor ’s instructions, especially in severe cases. Finally it
should be noted that aromatherapy must be applied only
according to the instructions of qualified aromatherpists and
that strictly the essential oils that are used should not be
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