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Aromatherapy: The Essentials of Essential Oils


Aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils to promote health and well-being, dates back thousands of years, according to some. But up until fairly recently, sound evidence-based research regarding the use of essential oils proved difficult to come by. Finally, western medical research is starting to come around, and the medical and nursing communities are beginning to discover the potential that essential oils may have in patient care delivery.

Essential oils, defined in this study as “aromatic plant essences, are volatile and fragrant substances with an oily consistency typically produced by plants,” show promising results in a variety of clinical situations. Many oils are shown to have antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties. This study showed the potential of certain essential oils as adjunctive therapy in the treatment of antibiotic resistant organisms. Others have shown efficacy in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as having antidepressant-like qualities. Most think of essential oils as something to inhale, but some oils are also safe to use topically, and in specific cases, through ingestion.

Essential Oils and Their Promising Uses



Citrus (Bitter Orange)

Citrus (Limon)

Citrus essential oils are known to help with stress and anxiety relief.




Eucalyptus essential oils have been known to help reduce pain and inflammation. They also are said to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.



Interested in Learning More?

Visit the American Holistic Nurses Association to find comprehensive programs that the organization endorses. You can also check out books such as “Clinical Aromatherapy: Essential Practice, 2nd Edition” and “Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, 4e.”

YOUR TURN: Do you have any experience with essential oils?
What’s your favorite oil?

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yearn for Aromatherapy! Aromatherapy essential oil has naturally-occurring antispasmodic properties. It is effective for treating a wide range of digestive complaints, such as easing irritable bowel syndrome, cramping or stomach spasms and pain.

    March 25, 2014
  2. Stephanie #

    I am a nurse too, and have just started using Young Living oils in our home and just like Shari, I run to the oils for just about everything. I haven’t used any medicines for pain since starting to use the oils, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, etc. Since you asked her, I would have to say my favorite is probably Thieves, for it helping to keep us well and stay well, but beyond that, um, well, it’s hard to choose a favorite, b/c so many have helped with so many things, haha, and when you’re talking about yours and your family’s health, how can you not like that?!?! Thanks for spreading the word about essential oils!

    February 8, 2014
  3. Danielle #

    Although I am not a nurse, my mom is. She is the one who introduced me to young living oils. We use them every day! They have blended oils too which is a combination of oils. Thieves is one of the best oils for sicknesses like virus and bacteria. Peppermint soothes tummy aches, lemon is a good detox, and lavender heals any kind of cut or wound. Love love love these oils! They have changes my way of thinking about health and how we need to go back to the plants that grow on earth and not some synthetic drug made in a lab.

    February 8, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Stephanie and Danielle, Thanks for telling us your favorites and for sharing your experience.

      February 11, 2014
  4. Debbie #

    It is so great to see more nurses going back to the basics, I use a book called aromatherapy for health professionals we need to get back to back rubs and foot rubs! and helping people to heal with things like essential oils. More and more studies are being done on on essential oils with published papers to support their use. I have been using doTERRA essential oils and have learned so much from their wonderful medical advisory board, and really understanding the standards for essential oils vary. is a great source to read published papers. check out more about coaching and doTERRA essentialoils ad

    February 6, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Thanks for the resources!

      February 7, 2014
    • Suzanne #

      I also use DoTerra and refer to the above site for great information. I use oils for everything. When using essential oils a high quality oil that is designed for more than just an aroma is needed.

      February 27, 2014
  5. Shari #

    I use young living essential oils for practically everything. My health has improved tremendously!!

    February 3, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Thanks for commenting, Shari. Do you have a favorite oil?

      February 3, 2014
  6. Megan,
    I am a nurse that has used massage therapy for three years to help reduce my stress and neck and back pain, with great success. Recently one of my massage therapists introduced me to Arnica oil. She mixed it into the lotion she used to massage me with, at first I was skeptical of her and the oil. She was a small person and I need deep massage and I was afraid that I was not going to get a good massage. By the time my hour was up and time for me to go. I was pleasantly surprised. My muscles felt better and I felt as good as I would have with my regular therapist. She pressed me into buying a bottle of the oil. I am o glad I did. I have started working 12 hour shifts again and my arthritis ac up. When I come home I run a bath of as hot of water as I can stand, pour in a few drops of the Arnica oil and Epson salts. I soak in that for a while and when I get out my soreness is improved.
    Made a believer,

    February 3, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Great tip for other readers, Robyn. Those 12 hour shifts can take their toll.

      February 3, 2014
  7. Patricia Smith #

    Lavender, Peppermint, and Ginger have been utilized in my nursing career. First with my mom when she had nausea and stress with coping with ovarian cancer. Then with my daughter with migraines. I have enjoyed Earl Grey tea often during stress as it contains bergamot.
    Patty Smith Florida

    February 2, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      I’m so glad your mom and daughter were able to benefit from the use of essential oils. Thank you for sharing your experience. I didn’t know Earl Grey tea contained bergamot.

      February 3, 2014