Good-quality studies on aromatherapy are rare. One 2023 randomized trial from the University of California, Irvine had “astonishing” findings. One group of study participants aged 60 to 85 used a diffuser every night for six months (two hours of exposure to natural oil infusions of rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender), while the other received a sham treatment (trace scent amounts). Participants then underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests, comparing memory, verbal learning, planning, and attention-switching skills. The group exposed to nightly fragrance had a 226% difference in cognitive performance compared to the placebo group—and brain scans also revealed a significant change in the areas of the brain critical to memory and thinking. The researchers’ conclusion: minimal olfactory enrichment at night produces improvements in both cognitive and neural functioning and may provide an effective, low-effort pathway to improved brain health.
Access this study