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Aromatherapy Benefits: Scents for Stress Relief

Different Scents Carry Different Aromatherapy Benefits


Updated June 10, 2014

Aromatherapy Benefits: Scents for Stress Relief

Aromatherapy is a simple and effective tool for stress relief.

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Aromatherapy has been shown to carry many benefits in terms of wellness and stress relief. For example, one study showed that aromatherapy does indeed have an effect on brain waves, and can alter behavior. (Read more about the benefits of aromatherapy.) But not all scents are created equal, nor do they affect human physiology and behavior in the same ways. Here are some of the more popular aromatherapy scents used for stress relief, and their effects, with suggestions on how to make the most of them, so you can match the right scent with your aromatherapy needs.

Rosemary's Aromatherapy Benefits

Rosemary is associated with feelings of contentment. It’s been shown to have positive affects on performance and mood. Rosemary has also demonstrated the ability to reduce cortisol levels. This means that rosemary aromatherapy can be a good choice for de-stressing during the day when there is still work to be done.

Lavender's Aromatherapy Benefits

Lavender is associated with feelings contentment, improved cognitive performance (some measures) and mood as well, and has also shown other mild sedative and calming effects. It’s also been shown to reduce cortisol levels. It can soothe babies and new mothers alike, promote positive mother-infant interactions, and promote sleep in infants, and promote deep sleep in men and women, as well. This can be a great choice for anyone trying to relax for sleep or feel more calm and relaxed during the day. (See these lavender aromatherapy products for ideas.)

Peppermint's Aromatherapy Benefits

Peppermint aromatherapy has been found to increase memory and alertness, which can provide a great pick-me-up for too-tired, too-busy people, stressed students, and the overworked. See these mint aromatherapy products for ideas.

Ylang-Ylang's Aromatherapy Benefits

While ylang-ylang has actually been found to decrease alertness, slightly lengthen processing speed and impair memory, it’s also been found to promote calmness, and reduce stress, making it a good option for unwinding and de-stressing at the end of a long day. (See these ylang-ylang aromatherapy products for ideas.)

Lemon's Aromatherapy Benefits

Some research has shown that lemon oil may possess anti-depressant-type effects, making it a good choice for stress relief and mood enhancement as well.

Aromatherapy Benefits of Other Scents

If there’s a scent that you like, that isn’t on this list, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be useful for stress relief. Simply the fact that it’s pleasing to you can put you in a different mood, so why not conduct your own research? If it seems to work for you, then by all means, use it! If you find that its effects are not what you’d hoped for, there are plenty of other scents that have been proven effective for relaxation, mood enhancement, alertness, deeper relaxation and sleep, and other properties, so you have many options from which to choose!

(Scroll down for more resources on aromatherapy and stress relief.)


Atsumi T, Tonosaki K. Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Psychiatry Residence. February, 2007.

Field T, Field T, Cullen C, Largie S, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early Human Development. June, 2008.

Goel N, Kim H, Lao RP. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiology International. 2005.

Hongratanaworakit T, Buchbauer G. Relaxing effect of ylang ylang oil on humans after transdermal absorption. Phytotherapy Research. September 2006.

Komiya M, Takeuchi T, Harada E. Lemon oil vapor causes an anti-stress effect via modulating the 5-HT and DA activities in mice. Behavioural Brain Research. September 25, 2006.

Lis-Balchin M. Essential oils and 'aromatherapy': their modern role in healing. Journal of the Royal Society of Health April, 1998.

Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. International Journal of Neuroscience. Januray, 2003.

Moss M, Hewitt S, Moss L, Wesnes K. Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. International Journal of Neuroscience. January, 2008.

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