Aromatherapy and Sensory Processing Disorder

aromatherapyAromatherapy and Sensory Processing Disorder

by Lety Murphy

Aromatherapy have many benefits as we all know such as healing wounds, calming anxiety, alleviating symptoms associated with illness, reducing pain, alleviating nausea, improve blood pressure, improve mood and the list can go on. I have 2 children with sensory processing disorder and one is more significant than the other. What I found after using aromatherapy was a change in my children’s mood and behavior. I searched the internet and scholarly journals for research in helping with alleviating sensory processing disorder symptoms. I found very little regarding research but found plenty of articles with research to back up the calming effect aromatherapy has on children and adults. Of course, if there is plenty of research supporting the calming effect aromatherapy has on children in general, why wouldn’t aromatherapy help children who have been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and help children interpret the world with their senses.

What is sensory processing disorder? The best way to understand this complicated disorder is this way children’s sensory signals do not get organized adequately causing what one scientist explained it “a traffic jam” in their senses. The child’s brain who has SPD or sensory processing disorder find it very difficult to act upon the information received via senses (Ref.1). There are several subtypes of sensory processing disorder which are associated with sensory over responsivity, sensory under responsivity or sensory craving. It’s not important to know the details of each subtypes as much as it’s important to know how SPD can interfere with the everyday lives of the child and family who have been diagnosed. Many times children with SPD can be diagnosed with Autism, Autism spectrum disorder or ADHD.

Children with SPD, Autism or ADHD can have difficulty eating, dressing, learning, severe behavioral problems, failure to thrive, anxiety, depression, OCD, speech issues, social and peer problems.

One good research paper I found called PSYCHOSENSORY AROMATHERAPY RESEARCH PROJECT Sylla SheppardHanger found a correlation with the positive effect of aromatherapy in the treatment of children with behavioral and emotional disorders. Some other scholarly research papers I found regarding reducing anxiety suggested neroli was a great essential oil at reducing emotional disturbances and of course lavender was linked to having a calming effect as well.

Often times parents try to figure out why this is happening to their child and management of the disorder is very challenging. There are no clear cause to why but many theories exist such as brain damage at birth, genetics, nutrition and environmental toxins. What parents, occupational therapists, and doctors are finding that the “whole” child must be treated in order for the child to begin healing and normal everyday functioning.

After talking with many parents who have children with sensory processing disorder and autism spectrum, they believe aromatherapy have a profounding effect in alleviating symptoms and helping calm their children during emotional meltdowns. However, not much research exist to back this up and parents are desperate to find coping mechanisms for themselves and their children with everyday life.

What does treating the “whole” child mean? Well, just as it sounds, every aspect of the child’s life must be altered to accommodate a more healthy and natural lifestyle. The child receives therapy from an occupational therapist and sometimes other therapists as well. Those therapists can include speech therapist, behavioral therapist, physical therapist, development therapist, herbalist, nutritionist, chiropractor and Aromatherapist.




1. Sensory Processing Disorder foundation. 2014

2. Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in

Kids. 2013

3. Paleo Magazine. Oct/Nov 2014. Page 54


(PARP): Ten Years Later. Sylla SheppardHanger,

June 2008

Auckland, New Zealand

5ƆInhalation of neroli essential oil and its anxiolytic effects in animals


Chen1,3, Ying Shih2, TsongMin

Chang2, MingFu

Wang3, SenSen

Lan1, and




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