Friday, August 14, 2015

Fragrant Friday: Calm Yourself Down

Stress surrounds our everyday lives and prolonged stress can create a cycle of decreased energy, mental tension, disturbed sleep and physical illness. Relaxation is crucial in relieving stress and avoiding burnout. Aromatherapy massages, baths or inhalations can promote relaxation and have a powerful effect on both physical and mental health.

In our last Fragrant Friday we looked at the ways lavender essential oil (EO) can be very beneficial for first aid. This week we look at the stress-relieving benefits of lavender and other essential oils. We will tell you which oils are best for different kinds of stress relief – from depression to rejuvenation.

The Science Behind Essential Oils

OpenStax College - Anatomy & Physiology

Inhalation of essential oils affects health through the mind and emotions, and is the quickest method for producing results. Molecules rise on moist warm air when inhaled, and as air passes over the cilia at the top of the nose, individually shaped indentations accept different aroma molecules. Receptor cells carry this information to the olfactory bulb and onto the limbic brain and hypothalamus where neurochemicals are released to either relax or stimulate the body. The limbic brain is the seat of memory, emotion and learning. The hypothalamus is responsible for integrating many of the mechanistic and behavioral patterns that involve the correlation of neural and endocrine functions. Aggression, sexual drive, and emotions are all affected here.

Best Ways to Deliver Essential Oils

  1. Inhalation of essential oil vapors is a very effective modality for correcting emotional imbalances and is safe to use daily. It can be as easy as placing a few drops of essential oil on a handkerchief or keeping a vial in pocket or purse.
  2. Using a diffusor or spritzer is an efficient way to deliver a dosage to several people at once to relax or rejuvenate, relieve depression or irritability, and to purify the air.
  3. Massage has been accepted for a long time as relaxing to mind and body. Since the skin is the largest organ of the body, it absorbs whatever is on its surface. Application of essential oils is effective because the molecules penetrate the skin and are absorbed into the blood and lymph systems, circulating throughout the body within 2 to 20 minutes. The essential oils are eliminated in ½ to 3 hours via exhalation, urination or perspiration.
  4. Adding appropriate essential oils to hand lotions, shampoos, facial scrubs, creams and masks is another way to customize an anti-stress program. 1-2 drops per ounce in facial products, 4 drops per ounce in general skin care products, and 5 to 30 drops in massage oils, are appropriate dilutions.
  5. Balneotherapy or bathing is one of the best methods to absorb essential oils for relaxation, rejuvenation or detoxification. 3 to 10 drops of essential oils in a carrier is sufficient. ½ to 1 cup of  milk, colloidal oats, Epsom salts or sea salts as a carrier is effective for use in a bath.
  6. Showers are another way to receive the benefit of essential oils. A brisk scrub with a dry washcloth and 2 to 4 drops stimulates circulation and assists the skin in releasing toxins. Essential oils can be applied with the washcloth while washing, and are refreshing as well as deodorizing. A cold rinse for a few seconds is rejuvenating and increases circulation. 

Which Oils for Which Conditions

Lavender is one of those essential oils that serves to reduce a wide variety of stress conditions. The
key word for lavender is soothing. It is soothing to skin, nerves and inflammatory conditions. It has been widely used to promote meditation, for strengthening the conscious mind, and in rituals for health, love, celibacy, and peace.

Diffused lavender EO can soothe headache, insomnia, depression, stress, irritability, tension, anxiety, mental chatter, mood swings or PMS. Diffused with Rosemary EO it can help with memory and concentration.

Other essential oils which can be used for more specific conditions or emotions which one would want to evoke.

Trigger Wonderful Memories: Cinnamon, cloves, orange, lemon, spearmint and peppermint can recall wonderful memories that trigger a relaxation response.

Euphorics: Increase self-confidence, joy, and a general feeling of well-being with black pepper, grapefruit, ginger, jasmine, neroli, sandalwood, patchouli, clary sage, rose and ylang ylang.

Relieve Mental Fatigue: Cedar, cypress, eucalyptus, fir, juniper, pine, and spruce.

Create a Feeling of Grounding: Earthy and woody scents, such as patchouli, vetivert and sandalwood.


Reduce Stress from Overtaxed Immune System: camphoraceous scents, including rosemary, eucalyptus, niaouli, marjoram and pine are important.

Help Soothe Depression: basil, clary sage, neroli, rose, ylang ylang and bergamot, known as "the oil of anxiety."

Safe Use of Essential Oils

Before using essential oils, it is important to check for sensitivity. Mix one drop of the essential oil into a teaspoon of a light oil such as grapeseed oil, rub a small amount inside the crook of the arm and cover for 24 hours. If there is any irritation within that time, uncover and wash immediately with soap and water, and discontinue use.

It is also important to use essential oils sparingly since they are highly concentrated. Caution is necessary when used during pregnancy or on babies and others with sensitive skin.

Studies have also shown that synthetic scents can have undesirable effects, such as increased anxiety, headaches, or allergic reactions, and so using pure essential oils from a reliable source is a good idea.

Natural remedies are most effective when used consistently. Results may be noticeable in as little as a week, but depending on the severity of the symptoms, may take longer. If there is no improvement after a few weeks, a different set of essential oils can be used, herbal or nutritional supplements added, or advice sought from a qualified health care provider.

©Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist, has been formulating essential oil remedies since 1992. She founded Earth Heart in 1996 to help others learn how to safely and effectively use herbs and essential oils as part of everyday life.  Vicki is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, the Alliance of International Aromatherapists, and Women in the Pet Industry Network.