Aromatherapy advantage: How essential oils could help in substance use disorder recovery

MORGANTOWN W.Va. – Aromatherapy could help those recovering from substance use disorder by easing stress and discomfort. Researchers at West Virginia University are giving study participants an aroma inhaler filled with bergamot essential oil. Overall, the participants reported an increase in comfort and a decrease in stress after using the inhaler at least three times a day for one week.

“Those in treatment struggle to handle everyday living, overwhelming demands from work, family, the disease itself and even the treatment program. Those individuals have identified that relieving distress and increasing comfort during substance use recovery is vital to their success,” Marian Reven, who is leading the study, said in a WVU article.

Reven is also an assistant professor at the WVU School of Nursing and a registered aromatherapist. She chose bergamot because it’s soothing to the central nervous system, but she would also like to test the effects of other essential oils, such as lavender, various citruses and sustainable sourced sandalwood.

Aromatherapy’s positive influence extends beyond mental health, with its impact also observed on physical well-being. Essential oils interact with the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for processing and regulating emotions and memories.

This new research comes after Reven studied how aromatherapy can help nurses in 2020. That study showed that nurses who wore aromatherapy patches during their shifts were significantly less stressed, anxious, fatigued and overwhelmed. She hopes to also study how aromatherapy can help patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments such as palliative care, along with those seeking to improve their overall health.

“This could also include people before they are sick because the need to be happy is part of the whole person’s health. There is a lot of work to be done to show how aromatherapy can impact health and well-being, and I look forward to many years of discovery in research,” Reven said in a WVU article.

Reven aims to delve into other alternative health therapies, such as acupuncture, meditation, and yoga to explore how they can complement traditional treatments and positively affect patients’ health.