Marcus' aromatherapy session is being interrupted by the rest of the herd. Sometimes the whole group wants to get in on an aromatherapy session.



Essential Oils and The Psyche

By Frances Fitzgerald Cleveland


It is an interesting and complex area, the psyche. “Psyche” has been defined as the human mind, soul, spirit, and self - the mental and psychological structure of a being. And what is the definition for an animal’s psyche? I have not personally come across such a definition. Yet, my personal view is that they do have a psyche. I have had the opportunity to work with many animals over the past ten years using essential oils, and every one of them was their own unique self. I have also worked with many humans, using essential oils for their own unique personalities.

Essential Oils for the Psyche

There are a number of essential oils that are useful in various conditions of the psyche. Each has its own unique description of uses (and cautions). The most appropriate oil or blend for the individual can best be selected with the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.


Depression: bergamot, black pepper, Roman and German chamomile, clary sage, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, linden blossom, marjoram, neroli, nutmeg, orange, peppermint, rose, rosemary, rosewood, thyme, ylang-ylang

Loneliness: marjoram, neroli, rose, yarrow

Grief: bergamot, frankincense, marjoram, melissa, myrrh, neroli, yarrow

Lack of confidence: ginger, jasmine, juniper berry, rosemary, thyme, yarrow

Mood swings: Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender

Restlessness, agitation: basil, Roman and German chamomile, lavender

Tension and anxiety: bergamot, Roman and German chamomile, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, marjoram, melissa, neroli, ylang-ylang

Stress: lavender, neroli, ylang-ylang

Over-sensitivity: grapefruit, melissa, rose, yarrow

Anger: bergamot, Roman and German chamomile, grapefruit, lavender, yarrow

Fear: frankincense, neroli, thyme, violet leaf, vetiver

Lethargy: grapefruit, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary

Shock: melissa, neroli, peppermint, rose, ylang-ylang

Lack of motivation: coriander, cypress, lemon

Essential oils are the aromatic result of distillation or expression of plants and plant parts (e.g., flower, leaf, tree bark, root, twig, seed, berry, resin and rind). All essential oils have, to varying degrees, chemical compositions with powerful healing qualities.

So how do essential oils work with the psyche? According to Peter and Kate Damian, authors of “Aromatherapy: Scent and Psyche”, they write: “By their natural design, essential oils, more so than any other natural scents, act to heterolaterally harmonize the brain hemispheres. Synthetic perfumes, fragrances and aromas have no such ability; in fact they tend to operate in reverse causing some disarrangement of the Central Nervous System and the body’s etheric, electromagnetic field and thus contributing to regressive homolateral activity and behavior.”

From my own personal experiences, I have observed that essential oils do indeed positively affect the psyche. Many things in a lifetime can negatively affect one's psyche, and essential oils can help greatly to restore equilibrium and heal an injured or imbalanced psyche, as many people have realized for themselves and for their loved ones and animals. Essential oils work in individual ways with individual psyches. The psyche in turn can have a profound effect upon the physical being.

I have also observed how animals and humans respond to essential oils, and how they all respond in their own time. I advise my clients to “try not to think about it, just let the process happen.” This process can be a direct or an indirect journey back to balance, and may take seconds, minutes, days, months or even a year, depending on the individual, and the situation. Essential oils facilitate healing; the individual does the healing.

Pete is enjoying his aromatherapy session. He is enthusiastically licking the carrot seed oil off of Frances' hand

While for humans the choice of appropriate essential oils involves more logic than intuition, animals tend to know what they need and make their choices by instinct when given the opportunity. So with animals, I work with the process of self-selection. I let them choose the oils they want to receive. They sniff the bottles of oils that are offered to them and indicate if they want that particular oil by deep inhalations or trying to lick the bottle, and what they have chosen is then applied to them. Sometimes an animal will respond immediately with a far-away look, a big yawn, licking and chewing, swallowing, or other response indicating that the oil has had an effect on them. When the animal starts to refuse all the oils, we re-evaluate the situation.

Although one cannot put a timeframe on how soon one will respond favorably to an essential oil, I do know that when one is consistent with working with the oils chosen for/by them, there will be results. It has been proven that when a person is in psychoanalysis for a period of time there is eventually a change in the brain hemisphere. This is also true when working with essential oils for a period of time; there will be changes, in the whole individual - including physically, mentally, and behaviorally.

I have worked with humans, dogs, cats, horses, orangutans, gorillas and black crested macaques regarding situations with their psyche. Conditions I have worked with are unexplained fear, aggressive behavior, trauma, hyperactivity, and various physical issues, just to name a few. Most of my essential oil knowledge comes from human based studies and my own observations when working with animals. It is an area where one still learns everyday - I learn from humans, from animals, and by keeping up on the most recent studies with essential oils.

Some of my most rewarding work has been with the orangutans and their zookeeper. I have been working with four orangutans for the past three years. Most of the work has been with behavioral situations and some physical situations. One particular situation was aggressive behavior between the two male orangutans. Within two months of working with the essential oils on a daily basis, this aggressive behavior disappeared. Some behaviors took six months to a year to change. I give credit to the zookeeper, whom I trained how to use the oils, for being consistent with working with the orangutans everyday. There is now a sense of peace with these orangutans in their environment. The work we do now with them is to just give them a choice of scents to have around for their well being.

Also rewarding has been seeing the process of self-selection at work. The orangutans knew what they wanted and how they wanted the oils applied. For example one orangutan, who suffers from allergies, always wanted eucalyptus and frankincense under his nose. The one with the stomach upsets always wanted his fennel or peppermint on his finger and then he would lick it off. When they did not want an essential oil they would turn away or push the bottle away. I felt the orangutans really knew what they wanted, and I trusted that the oils would truly help them. Another interesting factor is that when we began this work, the essential oils they wanted changed over the course of three years. And, so have their psyches. They have been great teachers about how these oils can help them.

All the different types of animals I have worked with have shown me, over and over again, what oils they want and how they want them applied. One dog that I worked with, when he showed an interest in an essential oil, I would begin to apply it on his forehead, and he would pull away and then paw at me. I tried this three times before I realized he wanted the oil on his paw. I had a horse that would always lower her head after showing an interest in an essential oil and I would rub the oil on her forehead. I have yet to meet a cat that likes any oil applied. I never apply an essential oil to a cat. I let them sniff the oil and if they are interested I will put the oil on a tissue and leave it in their space; this gives them a chance to get away from the scent.

Animals have proven to me they know how to select what they need when offered, and the essential oils assist them to heal themselves. I do believe humans have this same capability - they just need to get out of their own way. Working with essential oils and the psyche is a process… a process I have seen demonstrated over and over that benefits from a little patience. Essential oils can help with the psyche - in its own time.


About the author:

Frances Fitzgerald Cleveland is a certified aromatherapist with extensive experience in the realms of health and behavior. She has worked with horses, humans, and all kinds of animals including more recent work with the Denver Zoo's orangutans, gorillas, and black crested macaques. Frances and her husband, John, live in Colorado and operate a horse facility, Outback Farm, where Frances teaches and practices aromatherapy, trains horses, gives riding lessons, and manufactures her internationally sold products through her company, FrogWorks. She can be reached at, 303-973-8848, and 877-973-8848.