Using Aromatherapy for Relieving Your Stress

aromatherapy bath

Eastphoto/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Aromatherapy has gained quite a bit of attention in recent years. Aromatherapy products, once somewhat exotic, have now sprung up on the shelves of even grocery store aisles. Aromatherapy candles, bath products, essential oils, and other products are now widely available and have been touted as effective in soothing babies, relieving stress and promoting healthy living. But does aromatherapy live up to the claims?


Relatively little research is available on aromatherapy. While more studies are being done, it's not as ‘proven’ as some other stress relievers. However, while further studies are needed, many studies have already shown aromatherapy’s benefits. Of the research that has been done to date, here are some of the findings:

  • Preliminary research shows that aromatherapy can alter brain waves and behavior.
  • Aromatherapy can reduce the perception of stress, increase contentment, and decrease levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
  • Lavender aromatherapy has indeed been shown to reduce crying in infants and promote sleep in infants and adults.
  • Different aromatherapy scents bring different effects on people.
  • One study showed that aromatherapy massage can have some beneficial effects on anxiety and depression.
  • Massage with aromatherapy provides stronger and more continuous relief from fatigue—especially mental fatigue—than massage alone.

As a Stress Relief Tool

While aromatherapy isn’t the magic ‘cure-all’ that it’s sometimes made out to be, it does appear to have proven effects as a stress reliever. Aromatherapy is a nice tool for stress relief because it has few (if any) known side effects, can be used passively (you can fill the room with scent while you attend to other activities, relieving stress in the process), and can be easily combined with other stress relievers (like massage or meditation, for example), for increased stress relief. Aromatherapy products are also widely available, making aromatherapy a convenient option.

Aromatherapy can be convenient, especially for busy people who need something quick. Here are some ideas for aromatherapy use:


Candles are great for aromatherapy. Lighting a candle is probably one of the simplest ways to scent up a room and create a nice feel, so get some aromatherapy candles and let them burn. The candles, like incense, can also be used to create a more soothing atmosphere, or as a focal point for meditation. However, they may be more practical than some incense because they don’t give off as much smoke.

Be sure that you get quality candles that give off a scent that’s potent enough to be smelled around the room.


Aromatherapy diffusers take essential oils and evaporate them through the air. This can be with the help of a candle or with batteries if you want to avoid the fire. Diffusers are great because they spread the scent quite effectively. The battery-run ones can be safer than candles—no open fire involved. This is another convenient method of creating a soothing atmosphere, and many of them look really nice as well, adding to the soothing vibe you should create anyway.

Body Products

Aromatherapy body products are great because they create a scent that follows you but can’t necessarily be smelled by others (unless they’re very close, in which case they probably won’t mind). You can rub aromatherapy lotion all over your skin, or dab a few drops of skin-safe essential oils on pulse points and enjoy the scent for hours.


Aromatherapy combined with massage carried greater benefits than either strategy by itself. If you’re lucky enough to have someone who will trade aromatherapy massages with you, this can be a wonderful and cheap strategy for stress relief. If not, paying for a massage from a professional can be worth the money.


Aromatherapy can enhance the relaxation benefits of meditation, providing a focal point (as with incense meditation), and offering the passive stress relief benefits of aromatherapy. Even a five-minute meditation can bring benefits. Try the aromatherapy incense mediation or the aromatherapy bath mediation.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vaziri F, Khosropoor M, Hidari M, Pourahmad S, Morshed Behbahani B, Saki F. The Effect of Aromatherapy by Lavender Oil on Infant Vaccination Pain: A Double Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. J Caring Sci. 2019;8(1):17-21. doi:10.15171/jcs.2019.003

  2. Sowndhararajan K, Kim S. Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response. Sci Pharm. 2016;84(4):724-751. doi:10.3390/scipharm84040724

  3. Hosseini S, Heydari A, Vakili M, Moghadam S, Tazyky S. Effect of lavender essence inhalation on the level of anxiety and blood cortisol in candidates for open-heart surgery. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2016;21(4):397-401. doi:10.4103/1735-9066.185582

  4. Babakhanian M, Ghazanfarpour M, Kargarfard L, et al. Effect of Aromatherapy on the Treatment of Psychological Symptoms in Postmenopausal and Elderly Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Menopausal Med. 2018;24(2):127-132. doi:10.6118/jmm.2018.24.2.127

  5. Gok Metin Z, Ozdemir L. The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage and Reflexology on Pain and Fatigue in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Manag Nurs. 2016;17(2):140-149. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2016.01.004

  6. Lakhan SE, Sheafer H, Tepper D. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in Reducing Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Pain Res Treat. 2016;2016:8158693. doi:10.1155/2016/8158693

  7. Soto-Vásquez MR, Alvarado-García PA. Aromatherapy with two essential oils from Satureja genre and mindfulness meditation to reduce anxiety in humans. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017;7(1):121-125. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.06.003

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.