Undergraduate Honours Theses
The purpose of the present study was to determine whether aromatherapy has an effect on stress responses in a population of undergraduate university students at a liberal arts college. To do this, participants were brought to a laboratory room and asked to complete a task designed to increase feelings of stress and anxiety by having participants perform a song in front of the researcher. During this, either water vapor infused with a small quantity of lavender oil or unadulterated water vapour was diffusing into the room. To measure stress, participants wore a heart rate monitor throughout the duration of the study, and were asked to complete a self-report measure of stress directly after completing the task. This study found a connection between the singing task and stress, in that heart rates were highest while the participant was performing the task than at any previous time point; but, ultimately, aroma was found to have no effect on stress, with no difference in heart rate between lavender and water diffusion conditions. These results may be due to factors like having conducted the experiment in a laboratory setting rather than a natural or clinical one, variance in levels of stress due to having tested during different parts of the school year, failure to manipulate placebo effects or concentration of lavender oil, or the absence of a direct association between lavender aroma and stress. Ultimately, additional research will need to be done in order to determine the relationship between aromatherapy and stress, if one exists.
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Mark Cole