There’s no question about it: stress can destroy your health. The role of stress in contributing to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as immune problems and inflammation, are now widely accepted. However, even though we know these risks, many of us are still left feeling like stress and worry are inescapable.
That’s where essential oils come in. Far from simply delivering a pleasant smell, some researchers believe that these scents actually trigger measurable responses in the brain that can induce relaxation, thus reducing feelings of stress, worry, anxiety, and depression. The University of Maryland’s Medical Center explains:
“The ‘smell’ receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories. When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health.”
Thus when used properly, essential oils can actually change how you’re feeling. Here are 5 of the best oils known for reducing stress and anxiety.
By far the most popular of the ‘relaxing’ essential oils, Lavender is believed to be effective for all users due to its emotional balancing effects. One study done on the oil suggested that inhaling it could reduce anxiety and improve moods, while another found that it could make patients both more relaxed and alert at the same time.
Frankincense, with its warm and comforting scent, is thought to be beneficial for stress due to its incensole acetate content, a compound that a 2008 study suggested could lower both anxiety and depressive behaviors. Some studies have shown that the use of frankincense can also improve learning and enhance memory in animals and human beings.
Chamomile tea is known for its ability to help people sleep, and the essential oil itself also contains strong relaxing and calming properties. The oil comes in two types, German and Roman. Both work to relieve stress and calm nerves. However, German chamomile is best for clearing the mind and finding emotional stability, while Roman chamomile is more sedative, and often used for treating anxiety and anger.
Often used to enhance yoga and meditation practices, sandalwood is venerated as being a sacred oil in its native country, India. One study performed on the oil has suggested that it may lessen anxiety, and its healing benefits aren’t limited to the mental realm: a recent study found evidence that the scent of sandalwood could help wounds heal faster.
Research on rose oil has found that rose oil may stimulate significant decreases of breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and blood pressure, all of which are markers for anxiety levels and stress. The same study showed that subjects who inhaled rose oil rated themselves as more calm and relaxed than subjects in the control group. This is a great oil for alleviating stress and anxiety, but pure rose oil can be very pricy!
Tips on Using Essential Oils Properly
When applied to the skin, essential oils should first be mixed with a carrier oil, like jojoba or almond, to avoid skin irritation. Massage the combined oils into your skin, or place them in areas that will help promote relaxation, such as on the back of the neck.
If you’d like to make a room smell like essential oils, you can add some essential oil to a diffuser so that the calming scent can spread throughout the space. Another great relaxation technique is to add a few drops to a warm bath.
Remember, essential oils are a very potent natural medicine that may come with side effects or contraindications. Consider speaking to an experienced aromatherapist to find the best oils and blends for you.
-The Alternative Daily