A new study testing the effectiveness of a patented essential oil inhaler (AromaStick®) extends the existing body of evidence that the direct application of specially formulated scents reduces stress and increases attention and concentration. Findings show that individual management of menstrual pain and back pain are facilitated and amplified when a specially formulated odor inhaler is used. In two field studies, participants' usual pain management regimens were compared with an odor inhaler as an adjuvant. To account for non-specific effects, the order of the type of intervention was alternated. The odor inhaler improved pain dynamics like onset of pain and pain duration. In individuals suffering from chronic lower back pain, the inhaler also increased the pain alleviating effect of the individual pain management method. In both studies mood and well-being were considerably increased when the inhaler was applied. The easy-to-use inhaler is lipstick-sized and contains a suspended filter held in place in the middle of the tube to allow for a full flow to the nose.
These findings have important ramifications. Not only do they underscore the biological importance of the olfactory system for perception, cognition, and behavior, they also show that odors may be used in a pre-clinical context to either assist pharmacologic treatment or complement non-pharmacologic pain management. To render odors relevant for therapeutic purposes, however, distinct functional properties like molecule concentration and satiation of the inhaled air are of utmost importance. In conventional aromatherapeutic treatments, diffusing odors into the ambient air does not suffice to transport the odor molecules to the sensory system in high enough concentrations. Instead, it requires full satiation of the inhaled air with the odor to induce a physiological effect that extends mere pleasantness qualities of essential oils.