Assessing the metabolic effects of aromatherapy in human volunteers

Zhang Y, Wu Y, Chen T, Yao L, Liu J, Pan X, Hu Y, Zhao A, Xie G, Jia W
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013


Aromatherapy, a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that uses essential oils through inhalation, is believed to enhance physical and spiritual conditions. Although clinical studies suggest that the use of essential oils may have therapeutic potential, evidence for the efficacy of aromatherapy in treating medical conditions remains poor, with a particular lack of studies employing rigorous analytical methods that capture its identifiable impact on human biology. Here, we report a comprehensive metabolomics study that reveals metabolic changes in people after exposed to aroma inhalation for 10 continuous days. In this study, the metabolic alterations in urine of 31 females with mild anxiety symptoms exposed to aerial diffusion of aromas were measured by GC-TOF-MS and UPLC-Q-TOF-MS analyses. A significant alteration of metabolic profile in subjects responsive to essential oil was found, which is characterized by the increased levels of arginine, homocysteine, and betaine, as well as decreased levels of alcohols, carbohydrates, and organic acids in urine. Notably, the metabolites from tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and gut microbial metabolism were significantly altered. This study demonstrates that the metabolomics approach can capture the subtle metabolic changes resulting from exposure to essential oils, which may lead to an improved mechanistic understanding of aromatherapy.


Zhang Y, Wu Y, Chen T, et al. Assessing the metabolic effects of aromatherapy in human volunteers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:356381(1-9).

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