When a person is sick at the hospital, family and friends send over some get-well-soon cards, candy, fruits, and flowers. Unlike the first three which must be put away to keep the hospital room neat, the flowers are displayed; they’re a gift that brings a slice of home into an otherwise institutional world. No surprise there—the sight of some brightly colored blooms in a hospital ward can bring a smile to anyone’s face, not just the sick person’s. A pop of color, the nice smell, and the way it adds a woman’s touch to any room can easily prove that flowers can lift spirits.
But did you know that some flowers may be used as actual remedies for emotional and psychological problems like anxiety, stress, and depression? Aromatherapy focuses on using natural plant oils (many from flowers) to help alleviate pain and enhance well-being. It is a form of alternative medicine that is heavily reliant on fragrant essential oils that one can spray in the air, rub on the skin, or directly inhale. Some are made to relieve pain; others are for bettering one’s mood or disposition.
There are many studies on the efficacy of aromatherapy. According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, “clinical trials of aromatherapy have mainly studied its use in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and other health-related conditions in seriously ill patients. Several clinical trials of aromatherapy in patients with cancer have been published with mixed results.”
While it has not been actually proven that aromatherapy can cure cancer, the NCI notes that some studies have shown that aromatherapy “may improve the quality of life in patients with cancer.” Aromatherapy is said to help “[ease] symptoms such as nausea or pain; [lower] blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rates.” When it comes to addressing emotional stress, NCI states that “studies of aromatherapy massage have had mixed results, with some studies reporting improvement in mood, anxiety, pain, and constipation and other studies reporting no effect.”