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How Ascents Clinical Aromatherapy Was Used to Improve Levels of Hostility, Distress and Anxiety* in a Virtual Reality Environment

Quick Summary

A joint study by Drexel University and Johns Hopkins University determined that Aeroscena’s Ascents® Calm No. 34 essential oil formula can improve negative affect (mood), including self-reported levels of hostility, distress, anxiety, and general upset, when used in virtual reality environments for therapeutic purposes. The study’s positive results were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

About Drexel University

Drexel University is a comprehensive global research university located in Philadelphia, PA. It offers a unique model of experiential learning combining academic rigor with one of the nation’s premier cooperative education programs.

About the Johns Hopkins University

The JHU is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland, and is widely considered to be America’s first research university. It has led the nation in federal research and development funding every year since 1979.

About Aeroscena®

Aeroscena is the corporate research and development organization behind Ascents-brand clinical aromatherapy. Aeroscena has developed the first scientifically-recognized platform for essential oils R&D, including clinical studies.


Drexel University researchers approached Ascents to participate in a pilot study examining the effect of Ascents Calm clinical aromatherapy formula on self-reported negative affect for subjects engaged in virtual reality art projects. 

The Problem

Virtual reality has the potential to benefit patients as part of a therapeutic regimen to treat a number of different conditions, including phobias, PTSD, social anxiety, and pain. However, Engaging in VR involves detachment from real-life physical sensory experiences and shifts perception to digital visual and auditory stimuli. Scent can be a way to sensorily “ground” patients when other senses like that of sight and spatial perception are altered in VR. 

Why Ascents Clinical Aromatherapy?

Aeroscena’s Ascents Calm clinical aromatherapy formula had already been used in clinical studies to reduce anxiety and induce a state of calm, and had been shown to be effective, with no negative side effects. Therefore, the researchers were confident in choosing the formula to help study participants emotionally stabilize themselves in the unique VR-enhanced sensory environment, potentially improving mood and therefore creative output.

Ascents Products + Formulas Chosen for the Study

The following Ascents personal inhaler sachets were chosen for the study

Study Aims

Entitled “Outcomes of Visual Self-Expression in Virtual Reality on Psychosocial Well-Being With the Inclusion of a Fragrance Stimulus: A Pilot Mixed-Methods Study,” the study examined participants’ experiences of engaging in virtual reality-assisted art therapy activities under two different fragrance conditions e.g. with or without the exposure to Ascents’ proprietary Calm clinical aromatherapy formula.

Study Protocol

This study utilized open-ended survey responses and self-reporting measures to assess differences in perception of VR drawing tasks with or without exposure to an olfactory stimulus. The Calm No. 34 formula was diffused into the lab using the Ascents® diffuser system and patented Calm solid essential oil gels on alternating weeks. The scent dissipated within 30 minutes of turning off the diffuser.

The Result

The quantitative results demonstrated a significant reduction in negative affect (e.g., feeling hostile, jittery, upset, distressed, etc.) in the study condition that utilized the Ascents Calm clinical aromatherapy formula when compared to the non-fragrance condition. A trend toward improvement in self-efficacy was also seen in the Ascents-fragranced condition.  

The Conclusion

The study’s authors concluded that this type of fragrance, presented using whole-room diffusion, can enhance participants’ therapeutic experiences. The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, one of the foremost scientific journals dedicated to the study of clinical psychology. 

They went on to suggest that future studies examine the effect of other types of scents aimed at promoting focus and concentration -- an area of concern that Aeroscena has addressed via its Ascents Focus No. 04 essential oil formula, and with which the company hopes to conduct future clinical research.