Skip to Main Content

Welcome to

Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

Learn More

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

A bowl of lavender with a container of oil

Essential oils may help your child feel better, reduce stress, and reduce symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, pain, and sleep problems.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils come from plant parts such as flowers, fruits, leaves, bark, and peels. Removing the water from the fluid leaves behind a concentrated oil.

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to create smells that affect a part of the brain called the limbic system.

Stimulating this part of the brain may trigger emotions or memories. This causes the body to release chemicals. These factors may work together to reduce stress and/or relax the body.

How essential oils can help

Aromatherapy is an integrative therapy used alongside other medical treatments. Health care providers can use aromatherapy to help manage symptoms such as anxiety, stress, nausea, vomiting, pain, and sleep problems, and to provide comfort. An example of oils that might be used are lavender, spearmint, mandarin orange, ginger and lemon.

The use of essential oils is not a substitute for medical treatment. There has not yet been enough testing to show how well these therapies work.

Some essential oils interact with medications, so check with your health care provider or pharmacist before using them.

Essential oil May help with
Lavender Sleep problems
Stress and anxiety
Stomach cramps
Spearmint Nausea
Upset stomach
Stress and anxiety
Orange Sleep problems
Upset stomach
Stress and anxiety
Ginger Nausea
Loss of appetite
Sore throat
Lemon Sleep problems
Stress and anxiety

Essential oil side effects

Most essential oils are safe when used properly, but there are some risks including:

  • Allergic reactions to the oil or chemical impurities
  • Your child may not like the smell or it might remind them of something unpleasant

You should not use essential oils for:

  • Children younger than 2
  • People who are allergic to essential oils or their components
  • Those with asthma or other breathing problems
  • People who are sensitive to perfume
  • People with sensitive skin such as those who are getting chemotherapy, radiation, transplants, or those who have skin rashes or allergies (they should not put essential oils on their skin.)
  • Those who are pregnant

If your child uses essential oils too often, they could become more sensitive, or the oil will not work as well as it did when they first started.

Questions to ask your health care team

  • Could aromatherapy help my child’s symptoms?
  • Are essential oils safe for my child?
  • What type of essential oils might help?
  • What is the best way to use aromatherapy with my child to help their symptoms?
  • Would any of my child’s medications or treatments interact with the oils?
  • What are the signs of irritation?

For More Information

Key points about essential oils

  • Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to create smells to help relieve symptoms such as anxiety, stress, nausea, vomiting, pain, and sleep problems.
  • Essential oils are used along with medical treatment. They are not a substitute for regular medical treatment.
  • Talk to your health care provider before using essential oils.

Reviewed: November 2023