Aromatherapy, or essential oil therapy, is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts. Many ancient civilizations like China, India and Egypt have used aromatherapy to treat different health problems such as anxiety, depression, nausea, low appetite, dry mouth or poor sleep for thousands of years.
The essential oils used in aromatherapy are highly therapeutic agents, that are highly concentrated substances extracted from flowers, herbs, fruits and tree parts like bark, peels, petals and roots. In plants, they are present in different areas like glandular hairs, pockets and reservoirs, specialised cells or even in the intercellular spaces. So, when these essences evaporate, they protect plants from stress factors like a bacterial attack or temperature fluctuations. When used in the form of essential oils, these essences can have a similar effect on the human body.
Due to this, aromatherapy has established itself for the treatment of anxiety and stress, conditions that have grown rapidly during the 21st century. Today, you can find a variety of essential oils aromatherapy products that can help promote relaxation and stress relief.
How Are Essential Oils Made?
In order to extract the oils from the plants, manufacturers use different methods – steam or water distillation, or cold pressing.
The first process includes passing hot steam or water through the plants in order to pull out the essential compounds away from the plant matter, while the second one works by mechanically pressing the plant matter so it can release essential oils or juices. And depending on the plant matter required to make them, these oils may have stronger smells than the plant they come from and contain a higher level of active ingredients.
Some manufacturers, after extracting the active compounds from the plant matter, may add some of the many different carrier oils such as almond, coconut, jojoba or other carrier oils in order to make essential oils blends that can turn your home into a spa. Because they are already diluted for safe use, you can conveniently use the blends without any worries to fight stress, anxiety, muscle tension, symptoms of depression and more.
How to Practice Aromatherapy?
There are several ways you can use aromatherapy safely in the comfort of your home.
The most common way to use aromatherapy oils is to inhale them. To do so, you can use different diffusers or vaporizers or simply perform the good old steam inhalation.
When inhaled, besides providing a pleasant smell, natural aromatherapy oils can provide help clean the respiratory system and reduce congestion by opening up the airways. Moreover, you can inhale diluted essential oils to relieve symptoms of anxiety, reduce stress and relax. Studies have shown that the molecules in essential oils that enter the nose or mouth pass to the lungs, and from there to other parts of the body. When the molecules reach the brain, they positively affect the limbic system which is known to be linked to emotions, memory, heart rate, breathing and hormone balance.
So, instead of going to a spa and spending a fortune every time you feel stressed or anxious, you can bring the spa to your home using aromatherapy. Just light a couple of candles, add the oil to your aromatherapy diffuser and kick back as your body, mind and soul relax at the same time.
The molecules in the essential oils are also small enough to allow them to easily penetrate through the skin too. So, while using essential oils in massages, molecules travel through the epidermis reaching the dermis and to the blood vessels, allowing them to circulate to all body areas, including the brain. This coupled with the relaxing effect massage has is a winning combination to melt stress away.
Additionally, you’ll also get in a positive mood knowing how beneficial essential oils aromatherapy can be for your skin. They are known to contain antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage and protect against the buildup of toxic waste in skin cells, therefore reducing signs of aging. Certain oils, like tea tree, for example, have been found to help optimise cellular renewal process, enhance blood circulation and address problems such as acne or eczema. Furthermore, some studies have found that aromatherapy oils can help ease menopausal symptoms as well as the pain of menstrual cramps.
However, in order to prevent possible dermal irritations, before applying any essential oil to the skin, it is recommended to mix it with a carrier oil. You should dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil at twice the concentration you plan to use, rub the mixture into a small area on your skin and if there is no allergic response within 24 hours, it should be safe to use.
The Best Essential Oils to Alleviate Anxiety and Stress
This i one of the most popular aromatherapy oils. According to research in 2012 using lavender essential oil can reduce anxiety by impacting the limbic system which is the part of the brain that controls emotions. Besides using it in your aromatherapy diffuser, you can also enjoy a relaxing lavender bath by combining several drops of lavender oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond or jojoba oil into warm bath water just before entering.
Jasmine essential oil has a lovely floral scent and inhaling it can promote a sense of well-being. Unlike most other essential oils that are used for anxiety, Jasmine oil is found to calm the nervous system without causing sleepiness. You can use this oil in two ways, either inhaling it directly from the bottle or allowing the scent to fill the room through a diffuser.
Vetiver comes from the grassy vetiver plant native to India, has a sweet, earthy scent and is mostly used as an aphrodisiac. However, according to a study in 2015, it has been found that this essential oil also has anti-anxiety abilities similar to the drug diazepam and that is why it is widely used in aromatherapy for relaxation. So, you can enjoy relaxing massage with diluted vetiver oil or you can add it to your diffuser.
Clary sage oil has a woody, herbal odour that can ease tension and help decrease control cortisol levels in women, which is known as the stress hormone that can increase the risk of anxiety and depression. So, when you feel anxious, try inhaling clary sage oil or massage the diluted oil into your skin.
Fennel is best known as a cooking spice and it has a pleasant anise aroma. Most people use it to treat digestive problems. However, the essential oil is used to relieve anxiety caused by menopause and other side effects such as sleep problems, depression, hot flashes and more. If you’re struggling with the symptoms of menopause, this oil might be just what you need to experience calmness.