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IFA and Northumbria University Research Project

Posted by admin at 10:12 on 28 May 2022


We are delighted to announce that the IFA is collaborating with Northumbria University to fund a new research project: The therapeutic effects of traditional and CO2 extracted essential oils on stress. 

Northumbria University, have been researching the effects of aromas for twenty years, including studies for the commercial cosmetics industry and those funded by the UK research councils. Their Department of Psychology, headed by IFA specialist advisor Mark Moss (featured on the BBC), boasts world leading expertise on stress, with their research published in a wide range of peer-reviewed academic journals.

The IFA is funding the research and will be combining their experience and knowledge with the research strengths of Northumbria University. The purpose of this research is to establish a strong  indication for the therapeutic effect of essential oils in the treatment of stress, and it is hoped that positive results will provide scientific evidence to substantiate the benefits of essential oils on emotional wellbeing. The ramifications of such evidence will not just benefit our members, but will also have an impact on the whole health and wellness industry.

Specifically, we will be running three studies.

The first will assess the impact of the aroma of an essential oil blend provided by the IFA on the stress hormone cortisol and participant evaluations of perceived stress, wellbeing, and mood. The study will be conducted over an eight-week period during which time we will collect and assess 2400 salivary cortisol samples to test the effectiveness of the aroma on this biological marker of stress over the course of the study. We will compare the cortisol levels to those collected from the same individuals over a similar duration when they are not being exposed to the aroma. Weekly completion of the subjective assessments of stress and mood will allow comparison of the perceived effectiveness of the aroma, and evaluation of the correlation between biological and subjective measures. 

The second and third studies will take an alternative practice focussed approach. In study 2 practitioner members of the IFA will recruit clients to assess the impact of traditionally extracted essential oils on cortisol over an eight-week treatment period. To avoid the need for practitioners and clients to collect saliva we will employ a hair assay methodology. Samples of hair will be cut close to the scalp from clients on the first and last day of treatment. These will allow for analysis of the cortisol levels in the weeks leading up to treatment and the effect of treatment over the eight-week period. Weekly subjective assessments will also be made using our online system that allows questionnaires to be completed quickly using a smartphone. We will compare the results to those from a sample of individuals not in treatment and recruited by the university over the same period.

Study 3 will follow the same approach as study 2 but will evaluate CO2 extracted essential oils. Taken together studies 2 and 3 will allow for the relative effectiveness of the two sources of essential oils to be compared, as well as comparing them to no treatment. The aim of this program of research is to establish a strong scientific indication of the effectiveness of essential oil aromas on stress by employing a rigorous scientific method and validated measures

For more information

If you would like to learn more about the charity work of the IFA please click here and for information about our ongoing campaign for aromatherapy to be more recognised and utilised within the NHS to improve the care available and reduce the pressure on staff click here.