More scientific studies are being done all the time to answer the question “How does aromatherapy work?” Current thinking theorizes that every essential oil contains varying amounts of certain chemical compounds which can be broken down into categories. Each of the compounds reacts on the limbic portion of the brain (the one which controls emotions) in a different way and produces results in that area of physical and emotional well-being. The basic groups include

ALDEHYDES – These lemon-like essential oils are antiviral and anti inflammatory. They are also calming to the point of being soporific.

ALCOHOLS – The essential oils found in such plants as sandalwood, patchouli, ginger petitgrain, rose, rosewood, myrtle, peppermint and tea tree are stimulating, diuretic, antiviral, kill bacteria, energizing and vitalizing.

PHENOLS – Cumin, savory, oregano, thyme, cinnamon and clove essential oils are strongly bactericidal. They are invigorating, warming and stimulate the immune system. Phenols are often used in cough syrup and lip balm.

CETONE – The essential oils found in hyssop, eucalyptus globulus, sage, rosemary and camphor assist in stimulating new cell growth for wound healing, and lowers mucous secretions. Centones are often found in nail polish.

TERPENES – Angelica, nutmeg, pine oils, black pepper, bergamot, orange, and lemon essential oils are all very stimulating. They have anti-viral properties, but may irritate the skin.

SESQUITERPENES – The essential oils known as tagates, yarrow, tansy, immortelle, and blue chamomiles are immune stimulants, bacteriostatic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral, sedative, anti-inflammatory and anti-phlogistic

ESTERS – Esters such as bergamot, petitgrain, clary sage, lavender and Roman chamomile essential oils are anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, spasmolytic, calming, sedative and anti-fungal.

LACTONES – Essential oils of elacampane and arnica provide anti-inflammatory and mucolytic properties

ETHERS – Sassafras, parsley, tarragon, basil anise, clove, and cinnamon essential oils are soothing to the nervous system, diuretic, spasmolytic, expectorant, stimulating and an antiseptic.

Although the above list provides general answers to the question “How does aromatherapy work?” – it is far from a comprehensive list. Scientists still are not sure precisely what causes the compounds to affect particular portions of the brain and change the chemistry of the blood in the way which it does.

It has been found that lavender oil caused participants in a test study to reduce error rate by 20 percent. Jasmine oil reduced error rates by 33 percent and using a lemon fragrance cause error rates in the same group of participant to drop by a full 54 percent. Each of the essentials respectively are increasingly stimulating.