Can aromatherapy reduce anxiety in children with autism?2019-10-08T17:23:56+00:00

Project Description


Children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often experience sensory exposures, such as aromatherapy, differently than children who do not have an autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, children with an ASD experience symptoms of anxiety at rates far higher than average. These children are among the most likely to benefit from aromatherapy interventions. However, many children with ASD are more sensitive to sights, sounds, and smells, so routine aromatherapy protocols and standards may be not only ineffective, but also harmful. As a result of this dilemma, there is an urgent need for research and protocols which are specific to the unique needs of this group of children.

Our research team has identified in previous clinical trials that standard aromatherapy solutions for anxiety are not helpful for children with ASD. Over 50% of parents of children with ASD report using complementary and alternative medicine regularly, and up to 88% have tried CAM at some point during their child’s treatment. Despite this frequency, only two clinical trials exist in the scientific literature evaluating the effects of aromatherapy on children with ASD. One of these studies was completed by our research team during an earlier phase of this project.

This 4-year research project began Fall 2016 and is expected to be completed mid-to-late 2020. The total cost of the project is $280,000, which is funded by the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and through generous individual donors. The project is 75% funded as of April 2019.

At a Glance:

Only 2

aromatherapy clinical trials


in indexed scientific journals and concentrate specifically on ASD. One of those studies was a product of this research project.

Over 50%

of children with ASD

are treated

with complementary and alternative medicine, as reported by their parents.


is the total cost

This Study

for this entire 4-year multi-part clinical trial research project.

Up to 88%

of children with ASD


sensory hypersensitivity, making them perceive odors to be more intense and less pleasant than children without ASD.


children with ASD

will participate

in this series of clinical trials which evaluates multiple mechanisms of action.

About the study:

What kind of essential oils are you using?2019-06-19T15:24:12+00:00

The oils for this study supplied by Florihana Distilleries in France. This study was not commissioned by the essential oil company and is funded exclusively through the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and the support of generous donors. Specifics about the oils and exposures will be available after the study has concluded.

What kind of study is this?2019-04-18T21:48:26+00:00

This is a long-term randomized controlled clinical trial (RCT) measuring the effects of essential oil inhalation on symptoms of anxiety and quality of life among children with an autism spectrum disorder.

This is the first study to look at the prolonged effects of aromatherapy for autism. It will tell us more about how children with ASD respond to essential oils.


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