While the biochemical activity of essential oils is often studied, as it’s easy to tell if microbes are being destroyed or not, the “aroma” therapeutic aspects are not as frequently “put under the microscope. Yes, here’s a placebo-controlled study just published on the positive effects of a lavender and bergamot essential oil massage blend.
It’s interesting that these two essential oils (bergamot and lavender) were chosen, as we see them at opposite ends of the spectrum in some respects. If someone doesn’t care for lavender’s floral aroma, we often recommend bergamot, and sometimes the other way around. The reason being is that some people won’t react positively to scents they don’t care for, or just aren’t compatible with their pshyco-biochemistry at the time.
Participants having the aromatherapy massage had significantly lower numbers on a wide variety of physiological markers of stress, and rated themselves as “more relaxed” and “more relaxed”. The blend concentrations were not given, but this would be very easy to experiment with at home, starting with equal parts, perhaps 1/2ml of essential oil in the carrier of your choice (fractionated coconut is very nice, and Sweet Almond oil is the massage-therapists most commonly used carrier).
Here’s the abstract of the reasearch:
Nat Prod Commun. 2011 Aug;6(8):1199-204.
Aroma-therapeutic effects of massage blended essential oils on humans.
Hongratanaworakit T. Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand.
“Although blended essential oils are increasingly being used for the improvement of the quality of life and for the relief of various symptoms in patients, the scientific evaluation of the aroma-therapeutic effects of blended essential oils in humans is rather scarce.”
“In this study, we hypothesized that applying blended essential oil would provide a synergistic effect that would have a chance for success in treating depression or anxiety. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to investigate the effects of the blended essential oil on autonomic parameters and on emotional responses in humans following transdermal absorption.”
“The blended essential oil consisted of lavender and bergamot essential oils. Human autonomic parameters, i.e. blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing rate, and skin temperature, were recorded as indicators of the arousal level of the autonomic nervous system. In addition, subjects had to rate their emotional condition in terms of relaxation, vigor, calmness, attentiveness, mood, and alertness in order to assess subjective behavioral arousal.
Forty healthy volunteers participated in the experiments. Blended essential oil was applied topically to the skin of the abdomen of each subject. Compared with placebo, blended essential oil caused significant decreases of pulse rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which indicated a decrease of autonomic arousal.
At the emotional level, subjects in the blended essential oil group rated themselves as ‘more calm’ and ‘more relaxed’ than subjects in the control group. This finding suggests a decrease of subjective behavioral arousal. In conclusion, our investigation demonstrates the relaxing effect of a mixture of lavender and bergamot oils. This synergistic blend provides evidence for its use in medicine for treating depression or anxiety in humans.