Aromatic plant and flower extracts and oils have been used to promote kids’ mental and physical health for thousands of years. In ancient India, oils were used during Ayurvedic baby massages to promote growth and wellness. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners added them to carefully concocted herbal remedies to treat childhood illnesses. And Egyptian families used them in cooking to help with digestion, and even applied warm, oil-soaked papyrus over a child’s stomach to help with urinary issues.
Today, Americans spend more than $30.2 billion annually on out-of-pocket complementary health approaches, according to the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. That includes aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils made from natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being.
“Aromatherapy has been around for centuries, but we’re just really now beginning to understand that it does have therapeutic benefits,” says physician Scott Schwantes, director of the pediatric pain program within the department of Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine at Children’s Minnesota. And although most of the scientific research has focused on adults, more and more parents are discovering that kids might benefit from aromatherapy, too.