Is work making you stressed? Study shows aromatherapy can help

No work is completely stress-free, but it shouldn’t be overly stressful either. Relieve your work stress with aromatherapy using petitgrain essential oil.

A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that aromatherapy can reduce your stress levels, as well as boost your work performance. Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain evaluated the efficacy of aromatherapy in improving work performance and reducing workplace stress.

Petitgrain essential oil offers many health benefits due to its properties as an antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, deodorant, nervine, and a sedative substance. The essential oil of petitgrain is obtained from the fresh leaves and young and tender twigs of the orange tree through steam distillation. Because of its distinct scent, petitgrain essential oil is commonly used in perfumes and cosmetics. It is also used as a flavoring agent in food and beverages.

For the study, the researchers recruited 42 administrative university workers and randomly assigned them to an aromatherapy group or to a control group. In a university computer classroom, the participants sat in front of a computer and completed a typing task. At the same time, the researchers switched on some oil diffusers. For the aromatherapy group sessions, the researchers diffused petitgrain essential oil. For the control group sessions, on the other hand, they diffused a neutral oil for the control group sessions.

Before and after the intervention, the participants completed anxiety and mood state questionnaires. Their heart-rate variability was also measured before, during, and after the intervention to assess autonomic nervous system regulation.

The results revealed that the aromatherapy group finished the typing task 2.28 minutes faster than the control group. They also experienced reduced anxiety and improved mood after the intervention. These outcomes may be attributed to the main components of petitgrain: linalyl acetate, linalool, and myrcene. The researchers explained that aromatherapy worked by reducing stress levels and increasing attentiveness and alertness.

With these results, the researchers concluded that aromatherapy, or inhaling petitgrain essential oil in particular, can boost work performance and improve the mental and emotional health of a person.

More on aromatherapy

Aromatherapy, also known as essential oil therapy, is a range of traditional, alternative, or complementary therapies that use essential oils and other aromatic plant compounds. Typically, aromatherapy is used through inhalation or as a topical application. In the Autonomous University of Barcelona study, aromatherapy was used through inhalation.

Aromatherapy through inhalation uses essential oils that evaporate into the air using a diffuser container, spray, or oil droplets, or inhaled such as in a steam bath. Aromatherapy oils provide a pleasant smell, as well as some health benefits. For one, inhaling essential oils can provide respiratory disinfection, decongestant, and psychological benefits. (Related: Portable aromatherapy: The breathing of organic plant extracts for improved health.)

Inhaling essential oils have a subtle, but holistic effect on the body. Molecules from the essential oils can enter the nose or mouth, then to the lungs, and from there, to other parts of the body. When the molecules reach the brain, they affect the limbic system, which is associated with the emotions, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress, and hormone balance.

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