Essential oils are a form of plants, herbs, flowers, etc., that have undergone an extraction process by steam or water distillation, cold pressing, use of solvents, or other means, to remove the highly concentrated oil. Essential oils can have a healing effect mentally, physically and emotionally. They can provide relief from depression, anxiety and nervousness. They can support sleep and calm or relax your body. Essential oils that are used for stress work by interacting with your limbic system. Your limbic system is the part of your brain that regulates your nervous system and emotions.
Essential oils are highly personalized and a scent might work quite differently for each person. And the “more is better” theory does not apply to essential oils. Using a lot of oil doesn’t increase the benefit of the oils, and the overpowering aroma can unsettle you and others living with you.
Although essential oils are natural, they should be used with caution, especially where pets, children and pregnant women are concerned. So, consult with your local aromatherapist or natural health care practitioner before using essential oils.
Essential oils can be used many ways but the three most common are through inhalation, massage or in a bath.
Inhalation of essential oils can be done by using an essential oil diffuser, which causes the oils to vaporize into the air. Essential oils can also be inhaled directly from the bottle. A few drops can be placed on a tissue and wafted under the nose, or added to a bowl of hot water; the steam rising off the water can then be inhaled. They can also be made into air fresheners. To make an air freshener, add 3 drops of an essential oil to 1 Tbsp of vodka, then pour mixture into 1/4 cup of warm water in a spray bottle, shake well, and spritz.
Massage is another effective method. Be sure to dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil such as almond, grapeseed or jojoba, or in a lotion. The rule of thumb for mixing essential oils for massage is 3% dilution, or 20 drops of essential oil per 2 Tbsp of carrier oil.
Bathing in aromatic water is an age-old ritual that is very beneficial for cleansing and relaxation. Using sea or Epsom salts, or a carrier oil as a base for your aromatic oils will ensure good dispersion throughout the water. Use 8 drops of essential oil per one cup of carrier of your choice.
Here are five essential oils that can help you manage stress and anxiety.
1. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia): This smell is uplifting and earthy. It can help balance anxiety and stress and any feelings that can cause tension, agitation, and sometimes depression and insomnia. A 2013 study of more than 100 patients awaiting same-day surgery found that those exposed to bergamot aromatherapy experienced less anxiety than the control group.
2. Lemon (Citrus limonum): Offers a clean, fresh scent and can help uplift your mood and stimulate your mind. Animal studies have shown lemon fragrance has restorative effects on stress-induced suppression of the immune system. In addition, research suggests that a key component of citrus essential oils, limonene, has sedative effects.
3. Neroli (Citrus aurantium): This essential oil is highly aromatic and has a floral cent. It helps soothe nervous tension by acting as a mild sedative. A study of postmenopausal women found inhaling neroli for 5 minutes twice a day for 5 days helped lower blood pressure and showed promise as a stress reliever. Another study found neroli reduced pre-procedure anxiety among colonoscopy patients.
4. Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides): Smells sweet, floral, exotic and intoxicating and is very beneficial when used therapeutically. It helps reduce anxiety and promote a state of calm. In a recent German study of Gardenia jasminoides, researchers found that inhalation of this oil acts as strongly on the brain as common pharmaceutical sleeping pills and mood enhancers.
5. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): One of the most well-known scents, this floral scented essential oil helps decrease the symptoms of stress, among many other benefits. Research has shown lavender can help treat insomnia and reduce anticipatory anxiety. I place a drop of lavender essential oil on my pillow before bedtime to help me relax and get a more restful sleep.
Photo from here, with thanks.