The effect of gender and ethnicity on children’s attitudes and preferences for essential oils: a pilot study

Fitzgerald M, Culbert T, Finkelstein M, Green M, Johnson A, Chen S
Explore (New York, N.Y.), 2007


Aromatherapy is frequently recommended for children but children’s preferences for specific essential oils are not well documented.

To measure preferences of school aged children for essential oils based on gender and ethnicity.

Descriptive study measuring children’s responses to and preferences for selected essential oils.

Pediatric integrative medicine clinic in a Midwestern children’s hospital.

Healthy school-age children of Latino (N = 39) and non-Latino Caucasian (NLC) (N = 48) ethnicity, 41.7% of the NLC group and 59.0% of the Latino Group were males.

Participants smelled single essential oils, answered three forced choice questions and one open ended question, order of exposure was varied.

Participants evaluated each scent’s effect on mood and energy, stated their preferences, indicated if scents evoked particular thoughts and selected a favorite essential oil.

Females were more likely to feel happy when smelling sweet orange (p = .043). Female Latinos were more likely than NLC females to find sweet orange calming (56.2% vs. 18.5%). Male Latinos were more likely (65.2%) to describe peppermint as “energetic” than male NLC (30%). Children chose an essential oil that they rated as “making them feel happy” (72.6%) and/or as “liking the most” (64.3%). Other results that approached statistical significance were: females felt more energetic with spearmint (p = .055). Latinos preferred spearmint over NLC (p = .075), and all males felt more energetic when smelling ginger (p = .091). Ginger and lavender were the least preferred. Results indicate that children have specific essential oil scent preferences. There is trend toward differences based on gender and ethnicity.


Fitzgerald M, Culbert T, Finkelstein M, et al. The effect of gender and ethnicity on children’s attitudes and preferences for essential oils: a pilot study. Explore (NY). 2007;3(4):378-385.

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