How Does Aromatherapy Work?

How Does Aromatherapy Work?

Although you may know that aromatherapy uses essential oils to treat a number of ailments and you may have even seen them at work, do you know how aromatherapy actually works? In this post, we’re going to talk about how aromatherapy works to provide the many benefits that it does for such a wide variety of conditions.


The truth is that researchers still don’t know exactly how aromatherapy works, but they do have a few theories that we’re going to talk about here. Since there are several different methods of using aromatherapy, many of the methods work differently because of how the oils are used. Here are some of the theories about how aromatherapy works.

Brain Stimulation

You may have heard that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, and this is not only true, but it may also play a role in how aromatherapy works. Some researchers have theorized that as the molecules from essential oils enter your nose and come into contact with the scent receptors, the same parts of your brain are activated that are tied to memory.

These same parts of your brain, the hippocampus and the amygdala, are also connected with the part of your brain that controls emotions as well as different functions in the body. Lavender, for example, which is well-known for its sedative effects, may affect the brain in the same way as medications that sedate users.

Because the brain is responsible for controlling all of the functions in the body, including the way you feel, it’s no surprise that a number of experts subscribe to this idea that aromatherapy affects users because it acts on the brain directly. However, there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done to confirm this theory.

Hormones and Enzymes

The other popular theory about how aromatherapy works when inhaled is that as you breathe it in, the molecules in the oil find their way into your blood stream and end up interacting with hormones and enzymes in the body to cause changes in you emotional and/or physical state. Because molecules that enter into the lungs are quickly absorbed by the blood stream, this theory makes sense.

Another fact that gives this theory merit is the fact that hormones are largely responsible for every function in the body. For this reason, when our hormones are out of balance, a number of things can happen including weight gain, depression and other mood disorders, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and various digestive problems.

Something else that supports this theory is the fact that many oils work just as well when applied topically as when inhaled. When essential oils are used as part of massage or rubbed into cuts and wounds, they are absorbed by the body and it’s this absorption as well as the inhalation that causes the user to benefit.


While we don’t yet know exactly how aromatherapy works, what we do know is that there are a number of proven benefits of a number of essential oils. We can only hope that as essential oils are used more often, there’s more research done on them that can help to prove how aromatherapy works so it can be used more often as a legitimate medical treatment.

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