When stress hits, what natural essential oils can relieve the pressure and help you to relax more?
Stress is a natural reaction to changes that occur in your life.[i] When you become overwhelmed by stress, this chronic long-term stress can affect you physically (headaches, sleep problems, muscle pain, high blood pressure, stomach issues), mentally (excessive worrying, panic attacks, depression) and emotionally (anxiety, moodiness, sadness, lack of motivation, restlessness)[ii],[iii] and increase your risk for disease (heart, lungs, immune system, cancer, cognition, liver, gut, mental health).[iv]
The essential oils that follow — lavender, rose, citrus family and mint family — are most effective in managing stress. Aromatherapy essential oil (EO) blends also help to de-stress and restore your health.
Lavender is the most highly researched stress-reducing essential oil. In a human study of stress from performing math tests, compared to a control group lavender aromatherapy lowered two stress markers (cortisol — the stress hormone — and chromogranin A, or CgA).[v]
In 60 coronary artery patients in the ICU, inhaling lavender EO (2%) for 15 days increased sleep quality and reduced anxiety.[vi] Results showed a nearly 11% variance in anxiety and 70% decrease in blood cortisol from lavender oil inhalation in a study of 90 open-heart surgery patients.[vii]
A hot foot-bath with lavender EO produced a significant increase in blood flow and relaxation.[viii] Three stress-related symptoms (pain, anxiety and satisfaction) were significantly improved by lavender aromatherapy with patients who had an IV catheter inserted before surgery, compared to a non-lavender control group.[ix]
Lavender aromatherapy in 15 pre-surgery volunteers significantly decreased stress levels, bispectral index score (lower score indicates anesthesia is working) and pain intensity of needle insertion,[x] and reduced stress and increased relaxation in 20 healthy adults.[xi]
In a study of 40 healthy adults, rose oil significantly decreased breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation and systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo group and subjects felt more calm, relaxed and likely to sleep than in the control group.[xii] In a labor/delivery study of 110 women, the use of rose oil aromatherapy reduced the severity of pain and anxiety in the first stage of labor.[xiii] In animal studies, there is evidence of rose oil’s anti-stress effects.[xiv]
Citrus Family (Orange, Bergamot)
Orange oil, from the citrus family, compared favorably to lavender oil in reducing fatigue.[xv] Petitgrain (bitter orange) aromatherapy can improve workplace performance by reducing stress and increasing attentiveness and alertness.[xvi] In a statistical analysis of 200 dental patients in the waitroom, both orange and lavender aromatherapy groups (50 patients each) had reduced anxiety and improved mood.[xvii]
In 72 dental patients, women exposed to orange EO had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood and a higher level of calmness than men and the aromatherapy group (men and women) was more relaxed than the non-aroma group.[xviii] Orange oil also reduced stress and anxiety for women in labor.[xix] In an animal study, navel orange EO lowered the depression-like behaviors of mice due to its limonene compound.[xx]
Bergamot (citrus-based) aromatherapy combined with listening to soft music showed improved relaxation in experimental research of 119 healthy young adults (average age 25)[xxi] and in 57 eligible participants waiting for mental health treatment, the bergamot group experienced 17% higher positive feelings than the control group.[xxii]
Mint Family (Rosemary/Thyme/Sage/Peppermint)
The mint family (Lamiaceae) has very aromatic members (including rosemary, thyme, sage and peppermint), which exhibit stress-related benefits.[xxiii] Saturna plants (rosemary/thyme family) were compared; Saturna brevicalyx (highest linalool content of 21.2%) beat S. boliviana (which had 12.8% linalool) in decreasing anxiety.[xxiv] Both rosemary and lavender oils effectively decreased cortisol in 25 healthy subjects.[xxv] The results of 33 employees in a chemical plant, who drank rosemary-infused tea, indicated positive effects on occupational burnout (reduced stress, fatigue and mental fatigue).[xxvi]
In a mice study, exposure to rosemary compounds led to lower depression and anxiety while performing tests.[xxvii] Inhaled linalool used on mice showed anti-anxiety properties and resulted in increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behavior performing tasks; linalool-rich EOs (lavender, sage, rosemary, marjoram, orange, bergamot) increase relaxation and counteract anxiety.[xxviii]
Peppermint oil, high in menthol/menthone, improved performance on demanding cognitive tasks and lowered mental fatigue associated with extended task performance in 24 healthy adults studied[xxix] and also enhanced memory and alertness in a study of 144 volunteers.[xxx]
The research shows EO aromatherapy blends improve stress-caused symptoms. For example, terminal cancer patients reported less pain and depression with aromatherapy (lavender/bergamot/ frankincense) hand massages when compared to a control group.[xxxi]
Similarly, 20 arthritic patients who were treated with an aromatherapy blend (lavender/marjoram/eucalyptus/rosemary/peppermint) lowered their pain and depression levels.[xxxii] In a research study comparing the impact of lavender oil, an oil blend (lavender/sage/marjoram) and acupressure massage, quality of life was improved with each intervention, but sleep improved the most with the blended aromatherapy and acupressure massage together.[xxxiii]
In 42 hypertensive patients, the aromatherapy group (lemon/lavender/ylang ylang) lowered their systolic blood pressure and heart rate variability, when compared to the control group.[xxxiv] For 52 hypertensive clients, lavender/bergamot/ylang ylang blend reduced psychological stress responses, serum cortisol levels and blood pressure.[xxxv]
Compared with the placebo group, the 20 healthy subjects who had bergamot/lavender oils rubbed on their bellies significantly decreased pulse rate and blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) and self-rated as “more calm” and “more relaxed.”[xxxvi]
Burn patients reported decreased pain and anxiety from rose/lavender aromatherapy.[xxxvii] In a meta-analysis of 12 research experiments, aromatherapy (different blends) was found to be an effective sleep enhancement[xxxviii] and reduced anxiety and depression in four trial studies of postmenopausal and elderly women.[xxxix] In addition, dementia patients treated with aromatherapy (rosemary/lemon/lavender/ orange) showed cognitive functional improvement, and those with Alzheimer’s had the highest gains.[xl]
De-Stressing With EO Aromatherapy
Combining increasing numbers of human studies with previous animal research of essential oils and stress, a holistic picture of aromatherapy’s benefits emerges. For science-based evidence of these de-stressing impacts, see GreenMedInfo.com’s research databases for aromatherapy, essential oils and stress/anxiety.
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