Taken from National Cancer Institute:
This complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information summary provides an overview of the use of aromatherapy primarily to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. This summary includes a brief history of aromatherapy, a review of laboratory studies and clinical trials, and possible adverse effects associated with aromatherapy use.
This summary contains the following key information:
* Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils from plants (flowers, herbs, or trees) for the improvement of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
* Aromatherapy is used by patients with cancer primarily as a supportive care agent for general well-being.
* Aromatherapy is used with other complementary treatments (e.g., massage and acupuncture) as well as standard treatment.
* Essential oils are volatile liquid substances extracted from aromatic plant material by steam distillation or mechanical expression; oils produced with the aid of chemical solvents are not considered true essential oils.
* Essential oils are available in the United States for inhalation and topical treatment. Topical treatments are generally used in diluted forms.
* Aromatherapy is not widely administered via ingestion.
* The effects of aromatherapy are theorized to result from the effect of odorant molecules from essential oils on the brainís emotional center, the limbic system. Topical application of aromatic oils may exert antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects.
* Laboratory data show sedative and stimulant effects of specific essential oils on animal tissues, while animal studies suggest positive effects of odors on anxiety-related behavior and the immune system. Functional imaging studies in humans support the influence of odors on the limbic system and its emotional pathways.
* Human clinical trials have investigated aromatherapy primarily in the treatment of stress and anxiety in patients with critical illnesses or in other hospitalized subjects. Several clinical trials involving patients with cancer have been published.
* Aromatherapy has a relatively low toxicity profile when administered by inhalation or diluted topical application.
* Aromatherapy products do not need approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because there is no claim for treatment of specific diseases.