Last week, in the blog on Basil Reviewed, I talked about using Basil (Ocimum basilicum) to lift the mind and clear mental fatigue and this week I thought I’d share a couple of research studies to support this.

If you are interested in reading the article I have on Depression you will find it here:

Study 1

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol 19, No 1
Effect of Inhaled Essential Oils on Mental Exhaustion and Moderate Burnout: A Small Pilot Study
Elizabeth Varney and Jane Buckle
Published Online:14 Jan 2013 


Objectives: The objective of this pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of a mixture of essential oils (peppermint, basil, and helichrysum) on mental exhaustion, or moderate burnout (ME/MB) using a personal inhaler.

Design: This was a randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study. Data were collected 3 times a day for 3 weeks (Monday–Friday). The first week was baseline for both groups, the second week was intervention (aromatherapy or placebo), and the third week was washout.

Settings/location: Participants used a personal inhaler at home or at work.

Subjects: The subjects comprised a convenience sample of 13 women and 1 man who each had self-assessed ME/MB.

Interventions: Participants were randomized to receive a personal inhaler containing either a mixture of essential oils or rose water (as used in Indian cooking).

Outcome measures: The outcome measures were a 0–10 scale with 10=worst feeling of burnout, 0=no feeling of burnout. There was a qualitative questionnaire rating aroma and a questionnaire listing perceived stressors.

Results: While both groups had a reduction in perception of ME/MB, the aromatherapy group had a much greater reduction.


The results suggest that inhaling essential oils may reduce the perceived level of mental fatigue/burnout. Further research is warranted.

Study 2

Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences Volume 59. Issue 3. June 2005. Page 363
The effect of Aromatherapy Massage on Mild Depression: A pilot study
Akiko Okamoto md   Hiroko Kuriyama md, phd  Satoko Watanabe ba  Yuka Aihara  Toshiaki Tadai md, phd  Jiro Imanishi md, phd  Kenji Fukui md, phd
First published: 16 May 2005


This study was to evaluate the effects of aromatherapy on cognition using a neuropsychological test designed for patients with depression. This study was conducted under the approval from the Ethics Committee of Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan. Detailed explanations of the project were given to each patient and all patients signed informed consent forms prior to participating.

This study was carried out in five patients aged 31–59years, with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual‐IV classification of 296.21 Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode, Mild (not including psychotic features). One of these patients was male. None of the patients used antidepressants or received psychotherapy. Each received a 30‐min aromatherapy massage using essential oils of sweet orange, geranium and basil twice per week for 4 weeks. To examine response to the therapy, patients were submitted to the 17‐item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM) and Profile of Mood States (POMS) 1 week before the first session and 1 week after the last session. Cognitive function was evaluated using the Wisconsin card sorting test (WCST). Effects of aromatherapy massage were mutually examined using Wilcoxon matched pairs signed test.

Our results were as follows. All data are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD) and were analyzed with Wilcoxon matched pairs signed test.

HAM score and the confusion‐bewilderment (C‐B) score, which is one of the subscales of POMS, were significantly improved from 14.8 ± 2.39 to 8.8 ± 3.63 (P = 0.039) and 62.2 ± 13.07 to 51.6 ± 8.05 (P = 0.043), respectively. These results suggest a subjective and objective improvement in depressive states. Especially, C‐B indicates subjective disturbances in cognition and thought.

Number of errors, perseverative errors and perseverative responses of WCST significantly decreased from 24.4 ± 3.97 to 17.2 ± 3.19 (P  = 0.042), 15.6 ± 5.03 to 10.2 ± 2.17 (P  = 0.043) and 16.8 ± 5.81 to 10.4 ± 2.51 (P  = 0.042), respectively. These results indicate that improvement in prefrontal dysfunction, because WCST assesses rule conceptualization and modification of strategies for responses to verbal feedback and is particularly sensitive to damage in the prefrontal cortex. Because of the 4‐week interval, improvement on WCST scores might be due to a learning effect. There was a previous study in which WCST was administered before and 21 days after treatment for major depressive patients who used antidepressants.1 The previous study reported that WCST scores were not improved. It would be possible that the improvement in WCST scores does not always depend on the interval between the first and second administration of WCST.

Most types of depression are related to frontal lobe hypometabolism and low perfusion. A recent study reported that fragrance stimulation brought more blood flow to the prefrontal cortex.2 Komori et al. reported the effects of citrus fragrances on depressive states.3 Taking the results of these previous studies together with the findings, it is conjectured that aromatherapy massage improves depressive states by increasing blood flow to the prefrontal cortex.


Aromatherapy massage may be useful as a complementary therapy for depression.


1 Moreaud O, Nagele B, Chabannes JP, Roulin JL, Garbolino B, Pellat J. Frontal lobe dysfunction and depressive state. relation to endogenous character of depression. Encephale 1996; 22: 47– 51. 2 Hirata K, Tanaka H, Arai M et al. The cecrebral blood flow change by fragrance – An evaluation using near‐infrared spectroscopic topography. Jpn J. Pharmaco-EEG. 2002; 4: 43– 47 (in Japanese). 3 Komori T, Fujiwara R, Tanida M, Nomura J, Yokoyama MM. Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive state. Neuroimmunomodulation 1995; 2: 174– 180.