Aromatherapy is used in a wide range of settings — from health spas to hospitals — to treat a variety of conditions. In general, it seems to relieve pain, improve mood, and promote a sense of relaxation. In fact, several essential oils — including lavender, rose, orange, bergamot, lemon, sandalwood, and others — have been shown to relieve anxiety, stress, and depression.
Several clinical studies suggest that when essential oils (particularly rose, lavender, and frankincense) were used by qualified midwives, pregnant women felt less anxiety and fear, had a stronger sense of well being, and had less need for pain medications during delivery. Many women also report that peppermint oil relieves nausea and vomiting during labor.
Massage therapy with essential oils (combined with medications or therapy) may benefit people with depression. The scents are thought by some to stimulate positive emotions in the area of the brain responsible for memories and emotions, but the benefits seem to be related to relaxation caused by the scents and the massage. A person’s belief that the treatment will help also influences whether it works.