Aromatherapy for Puberty and Adolescence

Posted on October 04, 2013 0

Aromatherapy for Puberty and Adolescence

By: Jo Kellett, TIDHA, MIFPA, CIMI

I have been practicing aromatherapy since 1996 and for many of those years I have specialized in pregnancy, labour and post natal care. But recently, partly due to my family growing and having clients with teenage children, I have developed a fascination and intrigue about using essential oils for adolescents.

There is very little written about this client group in relation to aromatherapy, so I have learned as I have gone along. As a result, I have compiled enough information to put together a one day CPD* course to share my experience with other aromatherapists who also want to treat this client group.

I have a regular core of clients who are children, some already in puberty, some already out the other side, and some still in primary education. Quite often they are the children of existing adult clients. Some of them have particular physical ailments but most simply desire to experience massage with essential oils. One young boy in particular badgered his Mum so much every time she came for a treatment that, in the end, she booked him a session and he loved it! Many of these children, and my own, are growing rapidly as children do, so it seemed totally natural to take ‘my area of expertise,’ so to speak, to the next level.

Puberty & Adolescence
Puberty, comes from the Latin puberatum meaning “age of maturity,” and is the term given to the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction to enable fertilization.

Puberty is measured by The Tanner Scale, a 5 stage scale that was introduced by James Tanner, a British pediatric endocrinologist. It focuses on the physical changes that occur during puberty. On average, a girl will start pre puberty changes around the age of 8-9 and reach the end of puberty around age 14. In boys, puberty starts approx. at age 9-11 and ends around
age 15.

In girls, the scale measures height, growth of the breasts, development of pubic hair, both genital and underarm, changes to the genitals and the onset of menstruation. In boys it focuses on growth rate, changes to the genitals, growth of genital, facial and underarm pubic hair, vocal changes, first ejaculation and muscle development.

Recent research shows that children in the 1st world are reaching puberty earlier. A study carried out by The Department of Growth and Reproduction at University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006, found that among 1,000 girls, the average age of breast development was nine years and 10 months, a full year earlier than when a similar study was conducted in 1991.

"We were very surprised that there had been such a change in a period of just 15 years," researcher Anders Juul said.

The cause of early puberty remains contested, but the condition has been convincingly linked both to increased obesity rates and to exposure to endocrine-disrupting toxins such as bisphenol A, the chemical found in plastic water bottles and lining canned foods and beverages. There is evidence that ‘bisphenol A’ functions as a xenoestrogen by binding strongly to estrogen-related receptors, disrupting normal hormone levels.

In boys and girls changes in hormone levels from the hypothalamus send signals to the pituitary to release gonadatrophins, namely Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Lutenizing Hormone (LH). In girls FSH promotes the development of an ovum, and in the boy, sperm. Whilst in girls LH triggers ovulation, in a boy it stimulates production of testosterone.

Adolescence is from the Latin adolescere, meaning "to grow up,” and is considered to be the transitional stage of physical and psychological human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood.

In the past, a person usually moved from the status of child directly to the status of adult, often with this shift being marked by some type of coming-of-age test or ceremony. However, from the 1950’s onward, the advent of the ‘teenager’ status gave the adolescent, or teenager, their own defined period of time. Alongside the obvious changes in the sexual characteristics there is recent research to show changes to the brain, social development and effects of the media. It has been discovered that folds and creases of the brain rapidly develop through adolescence, mainly in the cognitive and emotional areas. By the time individuals have reached age 15 or so, their basic thinking abilities are comparable to those of adults. Self concept, self esteem and self identity are all areas that develop at this time.

Relationships within the family unit change causing the adolescent to question their position and role within the family. Peer groups become important for self identity and can have a very positive influence on the growing child as they experience developing emotions of empathy, sharing and leadership. However ‘peer pressure’ can also lead to a negative influence and cause teenagers to experiment with drugs and alcohol, truancy, stealing and vandalism.

There is much debate over the impact that media has on adolescent development and behavior. However, because adolescents choose which media they’re exposed to, it is very difficult for researchers to distinguish cause and effect. But in a modern, fast moving world with mobile communications and exposure to multimedia everywhere we look, there seems little doubt that the media certainly has a profound influence on us all.

Treatment & Essential Oils

As with my clients of any age, prior to the first session I will explain what happens during a treatment. I take a full consultation at the first meeting. With minors, I ask the parent to sign the consultation sheet and to be present for the first massage. Then, between the 3 of us, we negotiate if the parent attends future treatments. I always state on my follow up sheet if the parent/guardian was present. During their first consultation I encourage these clients to talk about their eating and sleeping habits, friendship groups, levels of energy and self esteem and their hobbies/activities outside school. I always include my clients in the choice of oils and I find with teenagers they really know what they like, are very honest and will always say if something doesn’t suit!

Regarding treatment with essential oils, I am going to focus on 3 areas of adolescent/puberty care because these few seem to be relevant to the majority of teenagers. The list of essential oils suggested in this article does not contain the only ones that could be appropriate to use. Like in all client populations, specific individual issues may call for specific essences.


It is worth knowing and sharing with your adolescent client that frequent washing with astringent products does not in fact aid the skin but only encourages more sebum to be produced which can, in the long run, exacerbate the condition.

Aromatherapy aims:
• To reduce sebum production
• Minimize scarring
• Reduce inflammation
• Reduce stress and anxiety
• Lower bacteria levels

Base oil
Some clients are fearful of putting oil on to their already oily skin. I have found the use of jojoba (Simmondsia sinensis) to be well tolerated within the group. Because the molecular structure is similar to sebum it has been cited as being useful for Acne.

Essential Oils

Lemon (Citrus limon)
Physical properties: Antibacterial, Antimicrobial
Psychological properties: Refreshing

Caution – the expressed oil is phototoxic and the antibacterial property is short lived. Using distilled lemon oil will avoid the phototoxic property. (Author’s note: If using expressed lemon oil for skin care, do not use more than 2% to the carrier oil.)

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Physical properties: Antiseptic, Cicatrisant, Cytophylactic
Psychological properties: Antidepressant

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
Caution – Phototoxic, not to be used at more than 0.4% in a blend. Or use Bergamot FCF which is Bergapten free.
Physical properties: Cicatrisant, Cytophylactic
Psychological properties: Antidepressant, Euphoric

Atlas Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)
Physical properties: Antiseptic, Astringent
Psychological properties: Strength

Rose Otto (Rosa damascena)
Physical properties: Anti-inflammatory
Psychological properties: Euphoric, Tonic, Antidepressant

Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
Physical properties: Anti-inflammatory, Cicatrisant, Cytophylactic
Psychological properties: Antidepressant

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
Physical properties: Hormone regulator, Diuretic, Reduces Sebum Production
Psychological properties: Antidepressant

Infectious mononucleosis/ mono / glandular fever

Hard to diagnose, presents as flu like symptoms with spells of intense lethargy. The virus is passed from person to person in saliva which is why it's sometimes called ‘the kissing disease’ and why it so prevalent in the teenage community. In some cases it can lead to ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). Do not treat if client presents with a fever.

Aromatherapy aims:
• Boost the Immune System
• Assist with sleep
• Relieve achy muscles and joints
Restore energy levels

Essential Oils

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris CT Linalool)
Physical properties: Immune tonic, Antimicrobial
Psychological properties: Tonic- assists emotional
and physical exhaustion

Plai (Zingiber cassumunar)
Physical properties: Anti-inflammatory, Rubefacient/TCS, Analgesic
Psychological properties: Tonic – useful for fatigue and chronic conditions

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Physical properties: Sedative, Analgesic
Psychological properties: Tonic – useful for relaxation
and restoration, stress, insomnia, anxiety

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
Caution – Phototoxic, not to be used at more than 0.4% in a blend. Or use Bergamot FCF which is Bergapten free.
Physical properties: Immune tonic
Psychological properties: Antidepressant, Euphoric

Ravensara (Ravansara aromatica)
Physical properties: Immune tonic, Antiviral
Psychological properties: Refreshing and uplifting –
useful for chronic immune weakness

Menstrual cycle

Menarche usually occurs 2 years or so after the first sign of breast development. It will then usually take between 12-18 months for a regular cycle to develop. If a client presents with amenorrhea it is best to refer her to her General Practitioner.

Aromatherapy aims:
• To ease dysmenorrhoea – excessive pain will need to be referred to physician
• Assist with PMS
• Energy levels

Essential Oils

Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
Physical properties: Analgesic, Antispasmodic
Psychological properties: Nurturing, Soothing

Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
Physical properties: Hormone regulator, Diuretic
Psychological properties: Antidepressant

May Chang (Litsea cubeba)
Physical properties: Antispasmodic
Psychological properties: Euphoric, Antidepressant

Rose Otto (Rosa damascena)
Physical properties: Anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, Emmenagogue
Psychological properties: Antidepressant, Euphoric,
Supports the feminine

Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Physical properties: Antispasmodic, Emmenagogue
Psychological properties: Euphoric, Tonic, Sedative

The Importance of Touch

Alongside the powerful nature of the oils is of course the additional benefit of the massage itself. At a time when the young adult may be moving away from touch at home causing fewer cuddles with Mum or Dad, less chance to hold hands while walking, massage will address the need to receive the tactile stimulation we all require to thrive. Some teenagers report awkwardness in their bodies, like it doesn’t belong to them anymore. The changes that are occurring overpower their identity in some way. Massage has the ability to bring a sense of ‘you’ to you; there is something about touch through massage that is almost akin to meditation and a focus on the body encouraging grounding and strengthening in the self. It is a joy to treat this particular client group. It is helping me as a parent as it furthers my knowledge as a therapist.

Web sites


‘The adolescent Brain’ BJ Casey, S Getz, A Galvin 2008

‘The adolescent brain & age related behavioural manifestations’ LP Spear 2000

‘Age Differences in Resistance to Peer Influence’ L Steinberg, K C Monahan 2007

‘Structural Evidence for Endocrine Disruptor Bisphenol A Binding to Human Nuclear Receptor ERR γ’, A Matsushima, Y Kakuta, T Teramoto, The Journal of Biochemistry, 2007 Books

‘Growth’ J Tanner, GR Taylor, 1981

‘Touching, the Human Significance of the Skin’ A Montague, 1971

‘Carrier oils for Aromatherapy & Massage’ L Price with I Smith & S Price, 1999

‘Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit’ G Mojay, 1996

‘Essential Oils Safety’ R Tisserand, T Balacs, 1995

‘The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 2nd Ed’ S Battaglia, 2003

Jo graduated from the The Tisserand Institute in 1996. Following this, she went into partnership with a fellow graduate to develop a programme of aromatherapy and yoga to increase women's awareness of essential oils and their choice of care in pregnancy. This ran for 6 years at The Portland Hospital in London. During this time she returned to The Tisserand Institute to teach Essential Oil Therapeutics. She now teaches the diploma course at Neal’s Yard Remedies and is massage tutor at The Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy. She is also qualified as a certified baby/infant massage instructor. Jo is a Member of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists.

After the birth of her second child she moved to Brighton and re-launched her business From the Seed offering holistic care from conception to baby. Jo has written many articles over the years promoting the wonderful therapeutic value of essential oils and aromatherapy. She has recently contributed to the 4th Edition of ‘Aromatherapy for Health Professionals’ by Shirley Price and was a guest speaker at the 2010 IFPA conference with her presentation ‘Celebrating Creationan aromatic journey through pregnancy’.

To learn more about Jo please visit her website:

This article first appeared in NAHA's Aromatherapy E-Journal 2012.3


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