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Aromatherapy & Autism

Using essential oils to reduce the symptoms of autism

Using essential oils such as peppermint, neroli, chamomile and sandalwood can be effective in reducing distressing symptoms of autism.

Autism is sometimes described as a disorder of the senses; the brain relies on information gathered by various sensory receptors such as touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight in order to make sense of our environment. Others describe it as a neurological dysfunction, although the exact type of dysfunction has not yet been identified.

Prevalence of Autism

In 1983 autism was believed to affect one in every 10,000 children. Today, due to improved diagnostic abilities and public awareness, autism is believed to affect one to two per thousand children born. It is estimated there will be four million children diagnosed in the next decade in the United States. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed as autistic than girls at a ratio of four boys to every girl.

ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism

Autism is a complex, pervasive developmental disorder, a label it shares with ADHD and Asperger’s. ADHD and autism share some similar features and affects children in three central areas: communication, social dysfunction and behavior. Asperger’s syndrome, a milder form of autism, is more closely related to ADHD, and some of those diagnosed with Asperger’s make significant progress and can even overcome their disabilities.

A Cure for Autism

Despite much research and fervent hope on the part of parents, the plain fact is that there is no known cure for autism at this time. According to Autism Treatment Services of Canada, “Research indicates that the most successful method for treating and educating autistic individuals involves structured and intensive behavioural interventions. Through effective intervention autistic individuals can be assisted to fulfill their unique potential and lead happier and more productive lives.”

It is important to understand that many teenagers and adults with the autism diagnosis do not want to be “cured” of their autism. Many do not object to having some of the more bothersome symptoms alleviated but they are of the belief that autism is not something they have, it is part of who they are.

Reducing the Symptoms of Autism

In addition to behavioral interventions, there are other ways to reduce the more distressing symptoms of autism. Keeping the body healthy provides the energy needed to work and deal with the symptoms and encourages the development of the nervous system. Ensure that a healthy diet, drinking water, enough sleep and regular exercise is part of the daily routine. Detoxify the body if feelings of sluggishness are present. It is believed that if the build up of toxins gets into the brain, the results could be nerve damage.

Essential Oils and Autism

Essential oils can be effective in reducing some of the emotional and behavioral aspects of autism. Make essential oils a part of the daily routine to help keep everything balanced, calm and happy. Here are some examples:

  • Peppermint essential oil is a neuro-stimulator, and helps with concentration. Use it in an aromatherapy diffuser or on cotton pads around the room.
  • Neroli essential oil is known to be a very calming oil and is recommended for obsessive behaviors. Neroli is distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange tree and has a wonder full aroma. It can be added to a cream as a moisturizer, or as a perfume, but having it around will help with the obsessions.
  • Chamomile (R) essential oil has a calming effect and works well with hypersensitivity and aggression. It is particularly useful with in preventing tantrums and in easing transitions. Use in the bath or shower, inhale on a cotton ball or add to an aromatherapy diffuser.
  • Sandalwood essential oil is another oil that can be used for obsessive and aggressive behaviors but it is also known for helping with emotional traumas. Use in an aromatherapy diffuser, bath or shower, or in a massage if tolerated. For people who are tactile defensive, add the essential oil to a cream and suggest they massage it into their own hands.

Using essential oils can be an effective and valuable part of the daily routine for people with autism, Asperger’s or ADD/ADHD. For more information about using essential oils with people with ADD/ADHD, please refer to this additional article by the same author.


Elwood, Jane. “Aromatherapy and Autism”, (accessed Feb 2, 2010)

Autism Treatment Services of Canada website, What is Autism, (accessed Feb 2, 2010)

Worwood, Valerie Ann. “The Fragrant Pharmacy”, 1990

*This is educational information and any opinions expressed here-in do not replace professional medical advice. If you are ill, see a suitably qualified medical practitioner.*

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