Aromatherapy may dull a person’s perception of pain, even though it does not actually reduce the body’s physical response to pain, according to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine (2004; 66 , 599–606).
Twenty-six adult participants rated their pain while undergoing an uncomfortable experience such as having a blood pressure cuff tighten around their arm; they simultaneously inhaled lavender or rosemary oil. Subjects then rated their pain. Investigators at the University of Florida College of Dentistry reported that while subjects did not experience a change in their tolerance of pain during the uncomfortable event, during the post-test report those who had inhaled lavender oil rated their pain level lower. This response was consistent among both male and female subjects.
Growing research shows the physiological and psychological benefits of using essential oils. Evidence indicates that emotions influence pain recall. Inhaling the pleasant scent of lavender oil may positively affect emotions and make a person’s memory of pain less bitter. Therefore, the authors of this study concluded that since aromatherapy has minimal side effects, it may offer value in settings that involve pain and heightened arousal.