In today’s modern world, what with our daily work commutes, busy work schedules, stressful jobs, financial concerns and social media frenzy, its hardly surprising that we carry a great deal of stress all the time. The effects of stress can range from simple digestive problems and headaches to anxiety attacks and clinical depression. If you are experiencing stress as a matter of routine, its time to take action now. While a job change, yoga, meditation or doing fun activities helps, you can also make use of essential oils to beat stress and anxiety. Let’s take a look at the role of essential oils in dealing with stress and anxiety.
Role of Essential Oils in Stress Management
Essential oils are liquids extracted from plants by the process of distillation or expression to capture their essential fragrance. They are highly therapeutic in nature, quickly diffusing into the blood stream to bring instant relief to tense muscles and strained nerves. These oils are used to treat a variety of ailments including chronic pain, depression, and insomnia.
Essential oils can be inhaled, added to the bath, dabbed on a handkerchief, or massaged on the skin for quick relief. Inhaling is one of the easiest and quickest way of introducing the benefits of the oil into the body. The molecules in the oil enter the olfactory nerves in the nose and directly reach the Limbic region of the brain, which is the center of emotions. Since the Limbic region is directly connected to areas of the brain that control blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, the benefits of these essential oils also reach other functions that it controls.
Word of Caution: Essential oils are highly concentrated so you need to be extra careful about how much you use and how you use them. In its undiluted form it may cause skin irritation. Some oils are known to be toxic to pets and harmful to pregnant women and children. Some even cause negative reactions when exposed to sunlight. Learn how to use essential oils safely and properly before you start using them. A good resource can be found here. Another thing you need to watch out for is the quality of the oils. Many aromatherapy products that advocate the use of essential oil have synthetic aromas instead of pure oils, which cause more harm than relief. Therefore you need to be extremely careful when selecting the right brand of essential oil.
Top 10 Essential Oils to Beat Stress and Anxiety
Let us now take a look at some of the best essential oils to beat stress and anxiety.
Lavender possesses a sweet, fresh floral scent with powerful relaxing effects on the nervous system. It helps in calming down a person, providing relief from restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, and general nervous tension. It has the ability to balance any type of personality as it acts as a mood equalizer and enhancer. It can relax a person, while at the same time make them more alert. Several clinical studies have proven a reduction in stress and anxiety levels involving the inhalation of lavender essential oil.
Rose oil is a powerful mental stimulant that is often used to treat anxiety and depression. A pilot study on the effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman indicated positive findings with minimal risk for the use of aromatherapy as a complementary therapy in both anxiety and depression. Rose oil is also said to have a spiritual influence by enabling users to open the heart chakra and develop better relationships with others and oneself.
Bergamot has a sweet citrusy smell and is well known for its calming effects on the body. It is also considered a mood enhancer and equalizer. In a study conducted on a group of teachers in Taiwan, Bergamot essential oil was used as a spray for 10 minutes. Results indicated a significant decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. Bergamot can be diffused in tense work situations, or it can be consumed in infused teas such as Earl Grey. It can also be applied topically, or used as a dietary supplement. This oil is sensitive to direct sunlight so if you plan on going out, make sure the application area is well covered and protected.
Cedarwood is an excellent sedative that has a soothing and calming effect on the mind relieving tension and anxiety. The warm woody scent of this essential oil acts as a mood equalizer and enhancer by stimulating the Limbic region (controls the emotions) and the pineal gland that is responsible for the release of melatonin, (responsible for proper sleep cycles). Cedarwood aromatherapy is often recommended for people with ADHD, ADD, chronic anxiety, stress, and depression. This oil can be applied topically or used with a diffuser. It must be used with extreme caution by pregnant women.
Vetiver oil is sweet and woody with a smoky fragrance and is often used to treat people with trauma. It has a calming and balancing effect on the nervous system and is used in aromatherapy for reducing the effects of emotional stress, shock, panic attacks, insomnia, hysteria and depression.
Angelica is known for its various healing properties, particularly for its anti-anxiety effects. It earthy aroma is calming and relaxing and has the effect of releasing pent up emotions of disharmony and pessimism. It also has a history of being used to treat stress and anxiety. Lab tests conducted on Angelica and anti-anxiety drug diazepam reveal that both have the same anti anxiety effects, with Angelica having little or no unwanted side effects.
Chamomile is well known for its sleep promoting properties in tea. As an essential oil, its wonderful calming properties can help in reducing anger and anxiety. The German variation of the oil, which has a rich deep cocoa-like aroma is particularly helpful in clearing the mind, diffusing anger and stabilizing emotions. This oil can cause skin irritations and must be used with caution by pregnant women. The Roman variation of the oil also helps to reduce anger and bring down anxiety levels.The oil can be diffused or applied to the back of the neck or on the temples during times of stress. This variation is often used during meditation.
8. Clary Sage
Clary sage has a soothing effect on the mind and body and can boost self esteem and confidence and help fight off depression. It is also used as an antidepressant to treat patients suffering from acute depression. A study in Korea on a group of women showed this essential oil to have hormone balancing effects, reduction in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase in the levels of mood and sleep regulator serotonin.
9. Valerian Root
Valerian Root essential oil is said to have been used for centuries as a relaxant. Its musty, woody aroma may be a little unpleasant, but its incredible effects on reducing anxiety and calming the nervous system cannot be overlooked. It also has positive effects on sleep and is often used to treat insomnia. Valerian should be avoided by pregnant women and children.
10. Ylang Ylang
Ylang Ylang is another potent aphrodisiac that is used for managing stress and anger. Inhaling the oil helps to stimulate the blood circulation and reduce blood pressure. Its sweet, cloying floral aroma has both calming and uplifting effects. It can reduce nervous palpitations and fearfulness and bring on cheer and optimism. A study of 52 people in Korea showed that inhalation of the blend of the essential oil helped reduce psychological stress and serum cortisol levels, as well as the blood pressure of clients with hypertension. Ylang Ylang can be sensitizing or irritating to the skin and must be used cautiously. People with low blood pressure must avoid it.
Essential oils are extremely potent in their pure form and must be used in the appropriate quantities and in the appropriate manner. Before you go ahead and get the benefits from these natural oils, make sure to exercise the necessary precautions.
Did we leave anything off? Do you have any essential oils that worked for your or for someone you know?