New research shows aromatherapy relieved work-related stress in teachers.

Twenty-nine elementary school teachers from Taiwan participated in this study.

“We recruited 29 elementary schoolteachers who did not have asthma, hypertension, or a heart condition,” the researchers noted. “Because an aromatherapy spray may induce asthma, participants with a history of asthma were excluded. Moreover, numerous studies have shown that heart conditions such as arrhythmia, myocardial ischemia, and a history of heart failure affect the HRV. Thus, participants with a heart disease and hypertension also were excluded from this study.”

The experimental procedures comprised two phases. First, researchers verified the effect of aromatherapy by conducting two blind tests. They used natural bergamot essential oil extracted from plants and synthesized a chemical essential oil as the placebo for the aromatherapy.

Each participant underwent aroma treatment twice: once during a heavy-workload state, and once more during a light-workload state. A heavy workload was defined as teaching more than four classes in one day, whereas a light workload was defined as teaching less than two classes in one day. All aroma treatment was conducted after the end of a day’s classes. To allow independence for the two treatments, the second treatment was delayed one week from the first treatment.

Second, they analyzed the performance of the aromatherapy treatment on the teachers who had various workloads. They measured the teachers’ heart rate variability to evaluate their autonomic nervous system activity.

Despite helping some teachers, the aromatherapy treatment had a weak effect on young teachers who had a heavy workload. Moreover, the aromatherapy treatment exhibited no effect on teachers who belong to the abnormal body mass index subgroup having a heavy workload.

Further, although the participants could not distinguish between the scent of the natural essential oil and synthetic essential oil, the natural bergamot essential oil has a relaxing effect, whereas the synthetic essential oil does not. This result directly shows that the essential bergamot oil extracted from natural materials for aromatherapy could be a better choice.

“We conducted this trial to examine the potential of using natural bergamot essential oil in appeasing the work stress of elementary schoolteachers,” the researchers noted. “The response of automatic nervous system has a significant change after the natural essential bergamot oil treatment. We also analyzed the effect of aromatherapy at different workloads. The aromatherapy may alleviate the symptoms of physical and psychological stress. The results also suggest that age and BMI factors affect aromatherapy performance when teachers have a heavy workload.”

The results were published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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