I have spoken to many people lately that are simply overwhelmed with life. Everyone from parents to teachers, those unemployed to business owners, millennials to seniors. For so many, this “new” normal is leaving people of every age feeling strained and stressed. Additionally, it continues to feel eerie having to don a mask every time we leave our homes and have people turn their backs or shy away when passing each other. There is no doubt that the pandemic is taking a big toll on our psyches. Now, more than ever, we need to find tools to help us cope. Using pure essential oils is a wonderful natural approach for relieving stress and helping to reduce anxiety.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are made from the natural chemicals of a plant. These natural chemicals are known as the plant’s “essence” and are what give the oils their distinct aroma and flavor. They’re made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves, or fruit) to capture the oils. Once extracted, the oils are combined with a carrier oil to create a product ready for use.
How essential oils work
Essential oils can be used 3 ways: aromatically (breathing them in), topically (applying diluted oils to the skin), and internally (in a supplement, or even in water). When inhaled, the scent molecules in the oils travel from the receptors in our nose directly to the emotional center of our brain, called the limbic center. The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our survival instincts and emotional responses. It is intimately connected to parts of the brain that control our autonomic responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, and hormone production. A smell can trigger a flight or fight response or can soothe us by turning on the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. Aromas can also play a central role in our emotional responses such as feelings of pleasure, fear, anxiety, and anger. Through this mechanism, essential oils can often spark emotion and as well as a physical response.
Essential oils possess numerous biological actions that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activity. When used topically, essential oils are absorbed through the skin and travel in the bloodstream to organs and tissues throughout the body. When ingested the oils travel through the gastrointestinal tract and then are dispersed throughout the system. Breathing in the essence of the essential oils also allows them to get into your lungs and therefore your bloodstream. Through these methods, essential oils can have a powerful effect on every system of the body.
Essential oils can reduce stress and anxiety
There are several oils that can offer an effective and natural response to stress and anxiety.
A few of the most notable oils include:
- Lavender oil: Many people find the lavender scent to be relaxing. It’s often used to help relieve stress and anxiety and promote good sleep.
- Sandalwood: The rich, woody, earthy scent of sandalwood that can foster relaxation and alleviate anxiety.
- Ylang Ylang: This oil comes from the flowers found on the tropical Ylang Ylang tree. It has an intense floral aroma that can help to lift up your mood while also having a calming effect.
- Clary Sage: The soothing aroma of clary sage can help alleviate stress by inducing a sense of well-being.
- Citrus scented oil: Invigorating citrus scents from lemon, orange, and grapefruit oils can be uplifting and certainly boost your mood when feeling down.
Many essential oil companies also create their own oil blends that use a combination of essential oils specifically designed to promote calm and emotional well-being.
How to use essential oils
There are multiple ways to use essential oils, but here are my favorite ways to use them to support stress reduction and alleviate anxiety.
- Spritzer: Combine a few drops of any of these oils with water in a small spray bottle and spray on your mask before leaving the home to help promote feelings of calm when out and about. You can also spritz on your pillow before going to bed a night to support a restful night’s sleep. It is important to shake the bottle to mix the solution before spritzing.
- Diffuser: Through a diffuser, you are able to fill the air in your home with the comforting scent of oil to help promote feelings of peace and tranquility and create a calming atmosphere while at the same time purifying the air.
- Topically: When you need a quick and simple way to relax, apply a drop of an essential oil topically to the pulse points on your wrists. Not only will this help to calm the body but keep the scent close by so you can take a quick whiff when feeling overwhelmed.
- Warm bath: If you enjoy an evening bath as part of your bedtime ritual, add a few drops of diluted essential oils to a warm bath for added tranquility. To help the oil disperse, add the oils to your bath gel or bubble bath while filling the tub.
I would not recommend the internal consumption of essential oils without the guidance of someone specially trained in their use.
How to find quality essential oils
The quality of essential oils on the market varies greatly, from pure essential oils to those diluted with less expensive ingredients or synthetic oils. Also, the way and process by which the oils are made is important. Some plants are not harvested properly or the oil is obtained through chemical processes and they are not considered true essential oils. Therefore, the most important thing to consider when shopping for essential oils is product quality.
However, figuring out which oils are the best is challenging, since there’s no government agency in the U.S. that provides a grading system or certification for essential oils.
Here are some tips to help you shop for quality essential oils:
- Look at the label: The labeling should include the Latin name of the plant, the country in which the plant was grown, and what other ingredients have been added to it.
- Evaluate the company: Purchase products from a well-known and reputable essential oil company that’s been around for several years.
- Choose dark-colored, glass containers: Pure essential oils need to be packaged and stored in glass bottles and shielded from light to protect their quality.
- Avoid “fragrance oils”: Fragrance or perfume oils are made from essential oils combined with chemicals, like phthalates, that can be detrimental to your health.
- Compare prices: Pure essential oils can be pricey because of the time and effort it takes to produce them. If you find a rock-bottom price for an essential oil, it probably isn’t pure.
- Check for testing: If a company doesn’t have testing data available for consumers, you may want to be wary of whether they have something to hide.
Stress affects our brain, our body, our bones, our mood, our outlook on life, and health. Finding ways to manage stress and support stress resiliency is so important to staying physically and mentally healthy during these chaotic times. There are so many therapeutic benefits to using essential oils and one powerful effect is as a stress reliever.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try taking a whiff of an essential oil to lift your mood and stimulate a sense of calm and well-being.
For more information on essential oils and how to get started, please contact my colleague Dr. Eve Rosno. Dr. Rosno is an expert in the safe use of essential oils for stress management as well as their many other health issues.
You can contact her through her website https://www.dreverosno.com/
is a Physical Therapist,
Nutrition Consultant and
Doctor of Integrative Medicine.
She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping people achieve
lasting good health and vitality.