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Is Aromatherapy Really Helpful in Recovery from Drug Addiction?

If you or someone you love has begun treating their addiction, the right choice has been made. That choice should be respected and supported. But, what is the best way to do this? When it comes right down to it, the method that works is the right one. The more things you know about and can try, the better your chance of success.

Often, researching addiction treatment and recovery stays focused on very traditional aspects of western medicine: therapy, medication assisted treatment, 12 step programs. Clearly, all of those have proven to be successful time after time and they deserve to be researched and practiced. But, they don’t make up the entirety of options.

Take the time to explore alternative medicine and you may find a host of other options—yoga, meditation, acupuncture—with wonderful results. Another alternative recovery aid worth investigating is aromatherapy.

According to the National Cancer Institute, current aromatherapy practices originated in the early 20th century, when French chemist Rene Gattefosse first adopted the term “aromatherapy.” In the 1980s and 1990s, aromatherapy was rediscovered in Western countries, as an interest in holistic medicine grew. If you are interested in incorporating aromatherapy or another alternative practice into your recovery, explore the resources and options offered by, which can be reached at 800-256-3490.

What Is Aromatherapy?


Aromatherapy can increase mindfulness and decrease anxiety.

According to the National Cancer Institute, aromatherapy is loosely defined as the “use of essential oils from plants to support and balance the mind, body, and spirit. It is used … as a form of supportive care that may improve quality of life and reduce stress and anxiety.”

Basically, aromatherapy is the administration of essential oil (also known as volatile oil) scents. Fragrances of plants are commonly found under the surface of leaves, bark, or peel. To make an essential oil, these fragrances are extracted in natural ways, including distillation with steam and/or water or mechanical pressing.

Oils that are made via chemical processes are not considered true essential oils.

The University of Minnesota reports, “Research studies on essential oils show positive effects for a variety of health concerns including infections, pain, anxiety, depression, tumors, premenstrual syndrome, nausea, and many others.”

Why Does It Work?

The limbic system is an important part of the human body’s make-up. It is made up of the brains’ parts that are located at the top of the brain stem and under the cortex. These structures control many of our emotions and motivations.

When people use drugs, the limbic system floods the brain with satisfying chemicals and it makes memories of both the feeling and where it came from. Then, the brain begins to want that feeling and the source of the feeling again. Overtime, this growing desire becomes an addiction.

Well, the act of inhaling scents also triggers activity in the limbic system. Aromatherapy acts to create new positive associations in the brain and to lessen the negative feelings associated with recovery. Certain scents can help with the insomnia of withdrawal. Others can increase clarity and focus, allowing for better meditation and mindfulness. Still another will decrease anxiety.

What Scents Work Best for People in Recovery?

Ok, if aromatherapy has all of these benefits, how can you make it work for you? It’s important to keep in mind that different scents have different functions and blending them may be effective. But, the exact blend ratios are something you or a professional aromatherapist will have to develop over time.

Possible scents that aid in recovery include:

  • Lavender: helps with rest and relaxation
  • Ylang Ylang: helps with relaxation
  • Lemon: enhances mood, increases energy, and help deal with stress
  • Peppermint: aids with headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and muscle aches
  • Sandalwood: puts people in the proper mood for contemplation
  • Bergamot: lessens mild symptoms of depression
  • Eucalyptus: opens airways and increases energy
  • Chamomile: promotes relaxation and sleep
  • Clary Sage: reduces levels of anxiety and promotes sleep
  • Dill: decreases feelings of being overwhelmed and aids in relaxation
  • Ginger: lifts mood and increases energy
  • Jasmine: lifts mood and alleviates mild depression
  • Pine: lifts mood
  • Rosemary: alleviates mild depression

If you or someone you know is in recovery or seeking treatment and would like access to resources and information, at 800-256-3490. The more you know, the greater your chances at success.

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