Essential Oils in the Classroom

Essential Oils in the Classroom
Did you ever wish for a burst of energy during your long days? Would a cup of coffee or a short nap revitalize your concentration and ability? This sluggish feeling isn’t limited to adulthood. Students often need an energy boost to keep them mentally engaged at school until the final bell rings. School days are long, and before the end of the day, many students get off task. They need a little help staying focused and mentally sharp. However, they cannot catch a midday nap or grab a mug of hot brew. That’s where essential oils come in. Natural and safe, diffusing these oils can benefit students with very few unintended side effects. Known as aromatherapy, diffusing essential oils can help boost academic performance, calm down a chaotic situation, and improve concentration. Many schools have noticed improvement when implementing an essential oil program. In fact, a German study that began in 2005 found improvement in students’, “concentration, attention, motivation, and social behavior.” Using essential oils in the classroom can be an easy way to enhance student learning and improve the atmosphere of the school.

What Essential Oils Are Appropriate in the Classroom?

There are so many essential oils on the market. It can be overwhelming to pick scents to get started with aromatherapy. Before recommending oils to try, it’s important to first look at the needs of students. Classroom students have a variety of needs that aromatherapy can help with. They may feel tired in the morning or after lunch, or anxious while taking a test. Throughout the day, students may need stress relief, or need a boost to improve their focus. Having a variety of oils on hand can help. A variety means you can pick one that is appropriate to a given situation, or mix up a blend that covers the basic needs of your class. Selecting the right oil, or combination of oils, is an important part of successful aromatherapy. Here’s a look at common essential oils, and how they could benefit students in a classroom:

Uplifting Oils

These oils feature deep tones. They are invigorating. Oils with uplifting properties can wake up a sleepy class in the morning or after lunch. Uplifting oils can also help provide a mood boost during a hard time.


Derived from the peel of grapefruits, grapefruit essential oil boosts a decidedly citrus scent. When inhaled during aromatherapy, it’s linked to improved moods. Stress relief is another common use.


Among the most popular essential oil, orange oil has the scent of a freshly peeled orange. That’s because this oil is distilled from orange peels. Aromatherapy benefits include cheering people up, and uplifting moods.


Cinnamon essential oil can come from either the leaf or the bark of the Cinnamon tree. It’s stimulating smell can combat mental fatigue, and has been used to assist in relieving negative thoughts.

Oils to Improve Concentration and Focus

These oils improve mental concentration, and provide cognitive clarity. They’re ideal to use during a test or exam. They’re also appropriate to disperse when students are engaged in quiet work at their desks or in small groups.


Distilled from the gum resin found in the bark of frankincense trees, this oil features a spicy, woody fragrance. Researchers have learned it helps improve visualization skills. It also has a calming effect.


Rosemary boosts a distinct, woody aroma. Extracted from the flowery tops of the rosemary plant, it’s been found to enhance memory, improve learning, and reduce stress.


Distilled from the peppermint plant, this essential oil is easily recognizable. It has a hot, minty odor. Peppermint aromatherapy supports ADHD. It’s also believed to lower anxiety.

Oils to Help Calm Students

Sometimes students get overexcited or anxious. Whether they’re daydreaming of an upcoming holiday, worrying excessively about a test, or just loud an rambunctious, diffusing a calming scent into the classroom can help. Essential oil aromatherapy can relax students, and restore order so learning can occur.


Lavender essential oil brings a calming, sweet aroma reminiscent of the small purple flowers it’s distilled from. Nighttime baby bath often includes lavender because it promotes relaxation and soothes the mind. It’s often a comforting smell.

Ylang Ylang Oil

A sweet, flowery scented essential oil, ylang ylang oil promotes relaxation and encourages calming.


Distilled from a dried Asian grass of the same name, lemongrass oil features a powerful lemony, earthy aroma. Studies show it has a soothing, calming effect on the mind. Researches also link lemongrass aromatherapy with anxiety relief.

Essential Oil Blends

Don’t feel limited to using a single oil when diffusing. Combining essential oils into a blend is common, and beneficial. The German study on essential oils in the classroom featured a blend. The aromatherapy in those classrooms combined three oils, lemon, lavender, and orange. Not every combination of oils producing a pleasing aroma, so randomly throwing in all of your oils isn’t a wise approach to aromatherapy. Start your mixing experimentation slowly and carefully until you find a blend that works and smells the way you’d like.

How to Use Aromatherapy in the Classroom

Now that you have a better idea of what oils or oil blends you’d like to use, it’s time to explore ways to use essential oils in the classroom. Before you begin, it’s prudent to check with your administrator to ensure you won’t be violating any existing school policies. If your administration isn’t sure about allowing essential oils into the classroom, you can point him or her to this study for further research and to see the positive results that are possible. Once you’ve gotten permission to begin integrating aromatherapy into your classroom, here are three ways to use the oils.

1. Use a Diffuser

Perhaps the easiest way to use essential oils in the classroom, a diffuser disperses vapour into the air. You simply add water and a few drops of an essential oil or an oil blend, and the diffuser does the rest. With varying settings, you can elect to disperse them continually or just at certain intervals. For the classroom, intermittent dispersal is recommended to avoid the brain becoming too used to the scent.

2. Use Cotton Balls

For classrooms where using a diffuser isn’t appropriate, consider using cotton balls. By placing just a drop or two of oil on a cotton ball, the scent will disperse into the air. Since it won’t be dispersed as far as when using a diffuser, it’s possible to use the cotton ball technique for just a section of the classroom.

3. Integrate Essential Oils into Learning Activities

Students benefit from hands on learning. As you study plants in science, talk about the plants that the essential oils come from. Learn about oils that come from the leaves, ones that come from the roots, and scents that come from flowers. You can also use old film canisters or similar containers to create smelling jars. Simply place a single cotton ball with two drops of one oil on it into a canister and shut the lid. Continue until you have prepared five to ten smelling jars. Then, create a learning center where your students smell one jar at a time and try to match it to a picture of the plant that the oil comes from. If you created smelling jars for a student activity, be sure to securely seal the lids so they can’t be removed. Appropriate supervision is recommended.

Important Considerations for Using Essential Oils in the Classroom

Essential oils are very potent. They are concentrated, and can cause significant injury if applied full strength. It’s important to be aware of the potential problems, and know how to use essential oils safely before you begin using them around children.

Keep Your Oils and Diffusers Secure

Students are curious, and might not realize the strength of the oils. If they find a vial of essential oil unattended, they could potentially drink some of it, break the glass bottle, or take other actions that are not appropriate. Likewise, students could tamper with the diffuser, knock it off the counter, or add other ingredients to it out of curiosity. Never leave your essential oil collection out in the open for students to have access on their own. Teachers with locking desks could keep the oils in there, or up on a high shelf. The diffuser also needs to be secure, out of reach of curious hands.

Keep Parents Informed

It’s wise to inform your parents that you’ll be using essential oils in the classroom. If any of your students have severe allergies to a particular plant (like lavender), don’t use that oil in the classroom. You want your students to benefit from aromatherapy, not feel miserable from allergies.

Never Apply Essential Oils to Students

Not all experts agree on the safety of applying essential oils directly to the skin, even when properly diluted. Therefore, the wisest way to use essential oils in the classroom is strictly with aromatherapy.

Be Cautious Using Oils for Young Children

Some essential oils are not recommended for aromatherapy for children under the age of six. Usually they are oils that contain methanol, as the smell can slow breathing. Take time to research each oil before using it around children, and ensure that it’s been found generally safe for children.

Be Cautious Using Oils around Pregnant Women

If any of the classroom staff or frequent volunteers are expecting, take extra precaution selecting oils to use in your room. Some oils (such as ylang ylang) are not appropriate for use by pregnant women, and should be avoided when appropriate.

Ideas for Further Benefit

Essential oils are beneficial not just at school, but also at home. Here are some ideas for further benefit for you to explore with your classroom community:

Sharing Ideas with Parents

When you first begin your aromatherapy program, sending home a note for parents is beneficial. You can explain the oils you’ll be using, let your parents know how you’ll use essential oils in the classroom, and share some research explaining potential benefits. Throughout the year, it may be appropriate to send updates of your aromatherapy program home. In these updates, you can also include ideas for using essential oils at home. Here are three useful suggestions: 1. During a head lice outbreak If your school has an outbreak of head lice, you could send home some research on fighting the creepy crawly bugs with tea tree oil shampoo. 2. To promote sleep before testing A good night of sleep helps academic performance. If important exams are coming up, you could recommend diffusing a relaxing oil in the home at night to encourage sleep. 3. During cold season In the winter when colds are running rampant, you could share the benefits of diffusing eucalyptus oil with your classroom parents.

Sending Home Smelling Jars for Homework

Students who notice benefits from the school’s aromatherapy program could also benefit from the oils’ aroma during homework time. You could send home individual smelling jars with each of your students. To prepare a jar, simply place a couple of drops of oil on a cotton ball. Then, place the cotton ball in a small, lidded container. When it’s time for homework, the parent can open the jar, allowing the odor to permeate the study space. When study time is over, the student or a parent can put the lid back on the jar, helping to preserve the life of the smell. These jars will need sent back to school periodically for refreshing.

Final Thoughts

Essential oil aromatherapy can help improve learning and focus in the classroom. Some oils wake up a tired class, others help improve focus, and others encourage calmness. You can also combine oils to offer a variety of benefits simultaneously. Before beginning an aromatherapy program at school, be sure to talk with the administration and parents. Once you’ve been granted approval, talk to your class about aromatherapy. Discuss the oils you’ll be using, and why you selected those scents. Then add some water and a few drops of oil to your diffuser, and inhale deeply. Your aromatherapy program is now in session.

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