Essential Oils and Autism

Essential Oils and Autism: A Personal Journey

By Maria Perales

I would like to start this research paper by making an assumption based on both education and personal experience.  I have learned a great deal of valuable information on my Aromatherapy Certification Training Level 2 from the Aroma Hut Institute.  What I learned on these two levels have enhanced the knowledge that I had about doing aromatherapy on my son who suffers from autism.

As most of us know, Autism is a neurological disorder that affects children verbally including their social skills.  They are trapped in their own world. They have sensory issues.  Their communication skills are affected and they get very frustrated when they cannot communicate.  Often times, they have outbursts when frustration occurs.  A high percentage of these children have seizures.  Early intervention is very recommended to include ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy.  The earlier the child gets therapy with a well balance special diet, and natural treatments, the better results down the road.

Essential Oils and Autism - Aroma Hut InstituteIn 1983, autism was believed to affect one in every 10,000 children.  Recently and according to the CDC, autism is believed to affect one in 45 children for those diagnosed with autism in the United States.  It is estimated that 1 million people is affected with autism in the United States.  It is projected that the cost to the society by 2025 will reach 1 trillion dollars annually.

Currently, I am a member of the Autism Society of America, the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), and Talk About Curing Autism (TACA).  I am constantly receiving good information and resources from both organizations. These organizations help me finding the latest of treatments and tools that help children and adults with autism.

My whole eight months of pregnancy were very difficult.  Since the beginning of my pregnancy, I had symptoms of miscarriage.  I did not produce enough progesterone.  Because of the low levels of progesterone, it is very hard to maintain a healthy pregnancy. The doctor had me on a rigorous treatment of steroid injections every other day for four months to save the baby along with a baby aspirin and other medications.  While the baby was developing, he was being bombarded with lots of medications which I truly think is part of the reasons of having a neurological disorder.  The aspirin was prescribed to avoid blood clots from a side effect of the steroid injections.  The aspirin did not avoid my later pulmonary embolism.  I was diagnosed two months later after delivering my child.

My son was diagnosed at the age of 18 months.  His level of autism is moderate and he is non verbal with a lot of sensorial issues.  Currently, he is 19 years old and goes to school and is still in occupational and speech therapies.  I keep him busy with softball, soccer, bicycle and walking exercises.  He is very prompt dependent.  He bathes, dresses and eats independently.  He cannot establish a conversation.  His verbal skills are extremely affected.  Due to the special diet, exercise, aromatherapy, speech and occupational therapies, he is a well behaved young gentleman.   I will explain how aromatherapy has benefited my son not only with the sensory issues but also for relaxation and insomnia issues as well as candida and heavy metals detoxification.


Lavender and Peppermint Essential Oils | Aroma Hut InstituteEssential Oils and Autism

As I learned on Level One Aromatherapy, aromatherapy is defined as “a branch of alternative medicine that uses specific “aromas” from essential oils that have curative effects, and they can protect us from microbes in many different ways,

from keeping the space around us naturally microbe-free to readying our immune system for defense and to destroying the microbes once they’ve entered our bodies” (1).

On ACP Level 2, I learned the importance of getting organic and therapeutic essential oils. I certainly don’t want to apply any oil that is synthetic on a child with autism neither an adult.  The skin is our largest organ and whatever it absorbs, will certainly go into your system.  Also, we will not enjoy any benefits of an adultered or synthetic oil.

One of the things I have noticed with the essential oils and my son is that whenever I use Vetiver essential oil, he smiles and you can see how he relaxes the moment I apply the oil behind his ears, his hands and behind his neck.  I can see the how powerful the Vetiver essential oil is and its ability to stimulate the limbic region of his brain.  The relaxation that he experiences is very obvious.  To me it is so amazing how essential oils have the potential to influence a child with autism.

According to Valerie Ann Worwood, “essential oils are used to help an autistic child in two ways as aids in both forming contact and releasing emotion” (2) Lavender is a sedative and antidepressant, and also stimulates de immune system”.  Ms. Worwood recommends a massage oil formula for stimulation with Rosemary, Basil, Peppermint and Lemon essential oils to massage the back for the first six months using firm strokes called effleurage and in control. After six months, the front of the body can be included in the massage. For relaxation and fear purposes, she recommends a massage with a Bergamot, Geranium, and Clary Sage.

Proper Diet | Essential Oils and Autism | Aroma Hut InstituteI have been real blessed that with a gluten, soy and casein free diet along with natural juices and a balanced diet, my son rarely gets sick.  His immune system is pretty strong.  I truly believe that his special diet has played a very important role on reinforcing his immune system. Certainly we are what we eat and I do believe strongly on that.  It really saddens me when I see parents feeding their children a lot of junk food with artificial colors and snacks loaded with sugar and high fructose. On top of that, their bodies get bombarded with antibiotics.  How can we expect our children’s bodies to fight colds, viruses, etc. naturally if we are trained in this society to do everything with a pill and a disastrous diet?

Children with autism suffer very much with insomnia.  I diffuse Lavender and German Chamomile.  These oils are particularly good for the treatment of nervous conditions. As I learned on my first level of aromatherapy, Lavender increases the serotonin levels and German Chamomile not only is good for its calming effects.

Another issue that children with autism deal with is candida.  When I notice my son’s candida levels are high due to the ingestion of higher than the normal sugar, the psoriasis and eczema exacerbate.  I apply the German Chamomile essential oil diluted with Jojoba oil where needed in his skin.  I rub Garlic essential oil on the bottom of his feet as well for the candida levels.  Garlic is excellent as well as oregano to address candida issues.

Frankincense Essential Oil | Aroma Hut InstituteOnce a week, I prepared a warm bath with Epsom salts and Lavender or Frankincense to detox our bodies as well as for relaxation purposes.  This is a routine practiced by my whole family.  We have been doing this type of bath for the last seven years.

Children diagnosed with autism are loaded with heavy metals that need to be removed from their bodies by detoxification.  These heavy metals affect the neurological system.  My son was tested on 2002 for heavy metals, and the levels of lead were very high.  For detoxification purposes, he was treated with a glutathione IV and some drops of Cilantro essential oil in his food.  Due to the highly cost and expenses of the glutathione IV, I had to discontinue this treatment.  It certainly put a big toll on my budget.  I certainly saw a huge improvement on my son as far as verbalizing more and having better eye contact.  Currently, I am looking for different ways to use the cilantro essential oil because the flavor is very strong and my son rejects it sometimes.

Also, I use a technique called “Aromatouch” developed by Dr. David K. Hill.  Dr. Hill is a leading expert on the use of essential oils and he is also a Chiropractor.  I have been certified with this technique since 2014.  Once a week, I use this technique with my son.  Dr. Hill developed this technique for the purpose of supporting the healthy emotional and physiological functions for well-being.  At the end of using this technique for my son, he is so calmed that he falls asleep.  He truly loves this application of oils in his back, and I highly recommend it to all children and adults with a diagnose of Autism, ADD, and ADHD.   His is very relaxed and can focus much better.  I use the following oils from doTERRA for the Aromatouch Technique:


Balance (Blend of Spruce, Rosewood, Frankincense and Blue Tansy) This blend helps with calmness

Lavender – For calming and relaxation effects

Malaleuca – For calming effects

OnGuard – (Blend of Wild Orange, Clove Bud, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus and Rosemary) for cleansing properties

Aromatouch – (Blend of Basil, Grapefruit, Cypress, Marjoram, Peppermint and Lavender) for calming effects. The Lavender stimulates the brain and increases blood flow

DeepBlue – (Blend of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Blue Tansy, German Chamomile, Helichrysum and Osmathus) for warming effect

Wild Orange – For energizing and revitalizing effects

Peppermint – Invigorating and energy promoting

In a two-year case study by Dr. Terry Friedmann, M.D. found significant results when children that had previously been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD were administered therapeutic essential oils by inhalation three times a day for 30 days with a diffuser.  Some of the essential oils used during this study were Lavender, Vetiver and Cedarwood.  The inhalation of the oils proved to settle the children’s brain waves back into normal patterns and improved their scholastic performance and behavioral patterns.  This is one of the reasons why I use these oils for my son whose diagnose is autism and because the aromas from the essential oils have a powerful ability to stimulate the limbic region of the brain (3). The results of Dr. Terry Friedmann, M.D. study were:

Lavender increased performance by 5%

Cedarwood increased performance by 83%

Vetiver increased performance by 100%


I have found that using essential oils like peppermint, neroli, chamomile or sandalwood can help reducing distressing symptoms of autism.   As I said before, I diffuse these oils every night by alternating one at a time using one for three days in a row, and then switching with the other ones.

Dr. Josh Axe recommends using Vetiver essential oil for supporting balancing brain waves.   Also, he recommends Frankincense essential oil to support neurological development as part of autism treatments.  Actually, I use both for the whole entire family.

As I learned on my ACP-2, the Frankincense oil has a 78% monoterpene percentage content.  Monoterpenes reprogram the cellular intelligence back to the original design with the correct information.  Also, I learned how one of the therapeutic properties and to me one of the most important uses for this oil for my son is because is calming and have a sedative effect on the nervous system.

It is indeed an excellent essential oil.  I diffuse this oil and apply it diluted with coconut oil on the spine, his feet and behind his ears.  I highly recommend this oil to most parents with children diagnosed with autism.

Another oil that I use for my son is the Vetiver which is high in Sesquisterpenes having a grounding and calming effect on emotions.  It helps with relaxation as well.  I diffuse this oil and apply it diluted with coconut oil behind his ears, spine and bottom of his feet.

On the Aromatherapy Certification Program Level 2, Essential Oils for Various Systems Disorder Chapter, some of the recommended oils are:  Basil, Cardamom, Lavender, Melissa, Frankincense and Sandalwood.  “These oils are considered as nervine oils that are known to have a beneficial tonic action on the nervous system.” (4)

My son takes a .05 mg of Risperdal two times a day.  This medication controls outbursts.  At his age of 19, the dose has not been changed since he started taking this medication at the age of 15.  The doctor suspects that due to the special diet and natural approaches that he gets, it has not been necessary to increase the dose.  Typically, at his age the normal dose will be double or triple than .05 mg.  The doctor always asks if he needs a higher dose of Risperdal and I always say that it is not necessary.  This medication is well known with many side effects i.e. tumors, dizziness, anxiety, and many other side effects.  The doctor orders a lipid panel blood test to make sure his liver does not get affected with this medication.  Knowing how dangerous this medication is, I do dry brush in his body before I use a blend of Helychrisum essential oil and Coconut oil.    I massage this blend of oils over the liver area.  He drinks plenty of water after the dry brush and liver massage.

I think that it is fascinating how in France doctors are required to study aromatherapy as part of their medical curriculum.  I believe the mentality in Europe is more open.  Also, I wish medical insurance covers aromatherapy in the United States.  That would be an awesome decision in this country.

I wish I had the knowledge I have now about the essential oils when I was pregnant and raising both of my kids.  I am teaching my daughter the importance of having the aromatherapy knowledge so she can use this approach not only for herself but for her future children.  Currently, my whole entire family is benefiting from the essential oils and almost every week, I get a couple of telephone calls with questions about which oil to use for different ailments.  I enjoy and love aromatherapy so I truly love helping them especially parents with children and adults with autism.  I know that the society is more aware of the dangerous side effects of modern medicine and I feel that they are opening more to different approaches and looking into better diets and natural treatments.  Aromatherapy is coming back and people are having more interest in learning about it because they are finding out how great the benefits are.

In a nutshell, I will continue giving my son all recommended natural treatments and will continue giving him a special diet (gluten, soy and casein free) for his gastrointestinal issues.  He will continue with a weekly bath detox at least once a week with sea salts and essential oils.  Also, he will continue with speech and occupational therapies as well as his aromatherapy.  I truly believe in all these therapeutic and positive approaches.  All these therapies with essential oils and autism continue helping my son and every year I see remarkable improvements with him.   My family and friends always ask me what kind of approaches I am using for him to behave so well and I say to them that natural approaches like aromatherapy, diet, sports, exercises and plenty of love is the perfect combination to maintain his good health and happiness.  Another important part of our life is that we both pray every night and this is our favorite time of the day.  My heart sings when at the end of our prayer he says “Amen”.

My son has inspired me to pursue the aromatherapy career and I truly love it. I will continue spreading the word of the benefits of aromatherapy with other parents that have children and/or adults with special needs or disabilities.  My goal is to continue learning more about aromatherapy so that I continue helping others.


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(1) ACP 1 Rebecca Park Totilo

(2) The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy – Valerie Ann Worwood

(3) Biological Treatments for Atism and PDD by William Shaw, Ph.D. (Second Edition)

(4) ACP 2 Rebecca Park Totilo