Using Aromatherapy to Overcome Anxiety
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is type of alternative medicine that uses essential oils from plants to help change an individuals’ mood, mind, and state of consciousness to improve health, vitality, and wellbeing. Although there isn’t a lot of evidence supporting aromatherapy as a valid medical treatment option for things like viral infections, there is evidence that it could have therapeutic effects for conditions like anxiety disorder, high stress, as well as depression. For the individuals that don’t want to hop on anti-anxiety medication right away, aromatherapy may be a good first option.
Aromatherapy for anxiety disorders and stress
There are certain oils from plants that emit fragrances that soothe our nervous system and calm us down from high stress and anxiety. Typically these oils are massaged onto the body and/or inhaled with a room diffuser. With the careful selection of a scent or group of scents, they stimulate the olfactory system and trigger the production of certain endorphins as well as hormones.
I would encourage you to try a lot of different ones and take note of what ones have the biggest impact on you. The ones that are listed below have all been associated with stress relief and calming down. These essential oils work through “Aromatherapy” – defined as an alternative medicine that uses plant materials (a.k.a. essential oils) to help improve an individuals cognition, mood, or overall health.
9 Essential Oils for Anxiety and Stress
When it comes to essential oils, it has been said that the ones that calm and sedate more than others tend to have a greater amount of esters. As with any form of treatment though, it’s all about preference and what works for you – so do some experimentation and see what you think works best. Obviously if you are allergic to any of these flowers, steer clear and choose a different one.
One of the most common aromas to help treat anxiety disorder is that of lavender. This essential oil is extracted via steam distillation of the lavender flowers. Within lavender there are over 150 different components that interact to help produce a healing effect. When buying lavender oil, make sure that you go for quality stuff – there is a lot of artificial crap on the market so be careful not to get that. In order to determine the quality of the lavender, you will want to make sure you are buying something high in esters and very low amounts of cineol.
Most people enjoy the scent of lavender and find that it really helps them de-stress and relax better than most. When inhaled it basically slows down fast wave brain activity (the root of anxiety) and replaces it with slower wave alpha brain wave activity.
2. Rose Geranium
The geranium rose can help to relax your entire body as well as boost your mood if you are feeling down in the dumps. It has a very nice flowery scent that most people enjoy a lot. This particular plant has been found to help balance hormonal levels as well as provide a major boost of relaxation. Upon smelling this scent, many people feel more relaxed and less irritable than before. This helps to make us feel calmer throughout the day and can even improve mood.
Like the other aromas on this list, it can provide a soothing sensation to the entire central nervous system. If you find yourself caught up in a never ending cycle of work, stress, anxiety, and don’t know what to do, this may help you out. It can take away pain throughout the body and some say it works by stimulating the lymphatic system.
3. Roman Chamomile
Most people have heard of chamomile tea, but may not have tried it in aromatherapy to help reduce anxiety. This smell is pretty distinguishable from most other scents – it smells a little sweet or fruity at times. It has been established as a substance to help reduce stress and in some cases has helped with insomnia and muscle tension. The oils are obtained from the Chamomile flowers which can then be used in therapy.
t has been used for over 2000 years and can help with a variety of ailments including vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, and ADD. The way it helps is primarily by having a calming effect on the user. Although it is likely not going to result in a permanent cure, it may help with a variety of things. When this type of oil is applied to the skin, it can even sooth any tension within the muscles. Most of the aromas on this list may help for other things in addition to anxiety.
This is another substance that when inhaled should be beneficial for anxiety reduction. In the Korean Academy of Nursing, there was a study done that involved the inhalation of clary sage with lavender, peppermint, and rosemary – the combination of these oils resulted in less anxiety for the individuals taking a stress test. There have been some studies involving clary sage and most have demonstrated that it can help with anxiety. It is by no means going to result in a cure, but will at least provide a temporary soothing effect on your mind and body. Some specialists go as far as to say that it may even have antidepressant properties – this is not well established.
The actual bergamot oil is obtained from the rind of unripe citrus fruit from a bitter orange tree. Like the others already listed, it can induce a state of relaxation and calmness. Many individuals find this scent refreshing with elements of fruitiness. This specific scent tends to be very helpful at restoring the hypothalamus to a state of homeostasis and calmness. If you are feeling a lot of stress and anxiety, this aroma may provide you with some major relief.
In one study involving Bergamot and diazepam, both were found to be helpful at reducing corticosterone responses to stress as well as correcting HPA axis activity. The fact that this
￼has been used in a study and was found to be effective for anxiety should tell you that it may really help you calm down.
Some have touted Jasmine as being just as good as the powerful anti-anxiety drug valium to help calm the nerves. The way that jasmine works is by increasing the GABA activity within the brain to help regulate feelings of stress, anxiety, and over-excitement. Although it’s probably not a good idea to make a direct comparison to the drug valium, this may be one of your best bets in aromatherapy to help with your anxiety.
Despite the fact that this information is derived from a foreign study conducted in Germany and was conducted on mice and frogs – many studies are conducted on mice that carry over to humans. Certainly there are things that only work on humans and only work on mice, but the fact that these results were so highly touted by many should tell you how effective jasmine could end up being. The good thing about the study was that it was published in Journal of Biological Chemistry – a peer reviewed publication.
Sandalwood has a sweet, woodsy, outdoors type scent and can be very beneficial in reducing anxiety. There was a study conducted that took into account the sandalwood aroma in cases of terminal illness. It was found to reduce overall anxiety in these patients. Additionally some have said that it works great to help with insomnia as well as improve overall quality of sleep. This fragrance comes from an evergreen tree and the oil that is used in massage therapy is extracted from the heartwood.
8. Sweet marjoram
Sweet marjoram is noted by some as helping during the menstrual cycle with cramps. It has also been said to help with circulation. Most people that use it notice that this bold fragrance has a little spice, but it does end up contributing to a state of relaxation of the mind and body. Like the others this can help some individuals with insomnia and get a deeper night’s sleep. Many individuals like to use sweet marjoram in combination with other things like lavender, bergamot, and chamomile for an even more powerful effect.
9. Ylang ylang
Ylang ylang is a tropical Asian plant and the essential oil is obtained from starfish shaped flowers on the cananga tree. Although it can really help with anxiety and stress, most people know that it is not as potent as something like jasmine. It has been referred to as the “poor man’s jasmine” due to the fact that it is generally not as potent. With this substance you are going to want to make sure you get a very good blend – otherwise you may get some diluted stuff that is of lower grade for aromatherapy. Many like to use it in combination with bergamot oil. It is not typically used alone, but it can be very pleasant combined with other fragrances.
Used as recommended, and under the care of a qualified practitioner, aromatherapy is very safe. Please remember that essential oils are very concentrated. Do not use too much. (Too much is not better in case of essential oils.) Also, please be wary of any allergies people have to essential oils. (Try on a small spot to see whether there is any allergic reactions before exposing the whole body). Caution is particularly recommended for patients who are pregnant, have allergy, high blood pressure or epilepsy. Be careful with young children or babies. If you accidentally spill the essential oils on your skin or eye, wash it off immediately with whole milk. Milk with some fat in it is best for reducing irritation and removing the oil actually in the eye. You may also use olive oil or other vegetable oil to resolve any issues if experiencing a burning sensation which would be possible with oils like peppermint. Watch out for inflamed skin if you use essential oils. If you consume the oil by accident, drink lot of milk, eat soft bread, and go to the nearest poison control center for appropriate action.
Oral consumption of aromatic oils are strongly discouraged unless you are under the care and supervision of an experienced practitioner. Many of these essential oils are very toxic. You should not apply the undiluted essential oil on your body as these are very concentrated and you may experience discomfort. The exception to this is lavender oil which can be applied safely in the undiluted form for burns and insect bites.
It is a very good idea to keep your eyes closed while inhaling the aromatic oil. This helps build up your imagery which enhances the effect of the essential oil. It also prevents the “fumes” from irritating the eyes at close range. Don’t apply any oils close to your eyes.
Certain oils such as mint oil causes insomnia. Do not use it at night (if you want go to sleep.)