Five Essential Oils For Reducing Anxiety
After living with Covid-19 for almost a year now, the long-term negative effects on mental health is taking its toll on many people, with anxiety being reported as a common symptom.
Studies of those caught in other pandemics over long periods such as SARS, Ebola, H1N1, and Equine Flu show that the psychological effects of contagion and quarantine is not limited to just the fear of contracting the deadly virus. Loss of income, continued unemployment, loneliness brought on by social isolation, and a lack of control in many aspects of life have all contributed towards increased levels of anxiety and stress.
The ‘stay-at-home’ orders issued by our government and others around the world has led to the largest enforced isolation period recorded in human history. That fact alone is enough to cause serious anxiety, especially given that there is no end in sight at the moment for the third UK lockdown which began on January 5th.
Benefits of a natural approach
While there are several methods of treating anxiety including medication and various forms of psychological therapy, these solutions are often not ideal for everybody. Drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and benzodiazepines can cause a wide range of undesirable side-effects, especially when taken for long periods of time.
Aromatherapy offers a more gentle approach to easing the effects of stress and anxiety, without having to resort to the use of medications. Essential oils are a natural, proven way to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and restore a healthy balance. The relaxing or uplifting influences of essential oils can be combined in a variety of ways to ease tension and anxiety and treat the body holistically.
When essential oils are inhaled they trigger the release of neurochemicals and hormones that will slow the heart rate, regulate blood pressure, and stimulate the immune system. This last action is very important, because stress causes adrenalin and cortisol to be produced by the body as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response which is essential for survival, but damaging over a period of time because these chemicals suppresses the immune defences making us more susceptible to disease and illness. This is why suffering from anxiety or stress for long periods can make you so ill.
Used alongside other anxiety treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, essential oils can help restore calm and balance in your life without delivering any side effects. This makes essential oils an ideal long-term solution for those with anxiety, although of course, you should always speak to your doctor before changing your current treatment.
Essential oil research
In a 2012 study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers found that essential oils commonly used to treat anxiety, such as bergamot, lowered heart rate and blood pressure following short-term exposure. In addition to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, this has positive effects on the symptoms of anxiety.
An increased heart rate and blood pressure are common signs of anxiety and by using essential oils for no longer than an hour, researchers found these symptoms to reduce. However, when exposure to essential oils lasts longer than an hour, scientists believe the beneficial effects are reversed.
Other research has shown how essential oils can help to treat the psychological pressures too, especially when used alongside other treatments. In 2007, a study in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that aromatherapy massages given to nurses working in accident and emergency reduced anxiety levels dramatically. Participants in the study received massages while listening to music over a 12 week period.
Marie Cooke, deputy head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, explained: “During both study periods the number of staff feeling stressed fell to 8 percent, but there was a greater reduction in winter, when the number fell from 65 percent, than in the summer, when the pre-massage score was 54 percent.”
Which essential oils help with anxiety?
Aromatherapists use a wide selection of essential oils for treating anxiety, but there are certain oils that are included regularly in treatments by experienced therapists when working on this condition. The following essential oils can be blended together to bring a wide range of benefits when they are used in an aromatherapy bath, massage, or used in a diffuser or burner.
Bergamot essential oil
This oil is often the first choice of aromatherapists when treating all types of anxiety, stress and depressive states due to its refreshing and uplifting action plus its delightful aroma. Since it is also ideal for combating insecurity, grief and negative emotions in general it is included in blends of other essential oils with similar therapeutic qualities for easing anxiety. And there is evidence to support the efficacy of bergamot essential oil.
In 2011, a study at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information showed that bergamot essential oil worked to reduce hormone responses to stress, thereby suggesting it could be an effective means to treat anxiety. It is known as an uplifting oil that is believed to have a balancing effect on the nervous system. Add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser or burner while meditating or add eight drops to a warm bath and agitate the water.
Lavender essential oil
As well as being an obvious choice of essential oil for easing anxiety, stress and tension, lavender also helps to ease restlessness and helps you enjoy a good night’s sleep during times of worry. Lockdown-living has prevented most people from seeing family as well as having fear about their own financial and work future. Many have found that lavender essential oil has helped them sleep well during the coronavirus pandemic.
A study at United Hospital in St Paul, Minnesota USA, found that systematically using the essential oil reduced preoperative anxiety in surgical patients. It also has benefits among other anxiety sufferers and research has shown applications of essential oils either through a diffuser, massage or warm bath can effectively reduce symptoms.
Frankincense essential oil
This oil has a unique soothing fragrance which has been used in religious ceremonies and as an aid to meditation for over 2000 years. The ability of frankincense to calm an anxious mind and instil a sense of peace and tranquillity is virtually unsurpassed, which is why the resin has been used for thousands of years in meditation and prayer.
It helps to promote deep breathing and can reduce blood pressure which brings about a state of calm relaxation to both the mind and the body. When feelings of anxiety begin to build up lay down on your bed and add few drops of frankincense essential oil to an aromatherapy burner or diffuser. Breathe slowly and deeply, and after a while you will begin to feel your whole body begin to relax and sense of peace develops.
Roman chamomile essential oil
This is another extremely popular choice with aromatherapists trying to re-balance extreme emotional conditions with clients who are suffering from anxiety, tension and stress. Roman chamomile oil is also highly effective for easing other emotional conditions such as anger, panic, shock and children’s tantrums, all of which are running rampant in many locked-down households right now!
Although it is more expensive than lavender oil, a little goes a very long way with Roman chamomile essential oil, and since its soothing and relaxing properties out-perform Lavender therapeutically, it works out no more expensive in the long run. It can be used in aromatherapy baths, massage or in vaporisers in the usual ways.
Sweet orange essential oil
Studies have shown that sweet orange essential oil has the ability to treat both the subjective and physiologic measures of anxiety and stress. It improves mood and decreases cortisol levels, calming the body’s various systems, bring about a sense of calmness. Add four to five drops of sweet orange essential oil to 10ml of carrier oil and massage into the back of the neck, wrists and the bottom of the feet.
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2021. Written by Geoff Lyth