The medicinal use of essential oils can be traced to ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures. Aromatherapy is taught in French medical schools and prescribed by European physicians; however, doctors in the United States typically don’t prescribe or use them. Hmmm…
The sense of smell is linked to daily functions such as relaxation, attention, performance, and alertness and these states may be achieved purposefully with different aromas (Butje, Repede, & Shattell, 2008). Lavender, my favorite, has been linked with parasympathetic stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. Whoa, sorry, I’m starting to sound like a medical journal. The parasympathetic nervous system helps us stay calm and relaxed. Thus, research has associated lavender with decreased anxiety, enhanced mood, and increased sedation.
Peppermint and rosemary have been linked with improved memory and cognition. Lavender and rosemary have been shown to significantly reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that wreaks havoc on the body. This suggests a protective effect that is anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-carcinogenic (Butje, Repede, & Shattell)! Amazing.
Essential oils may be applied in multiple ways; however, the most effective route for reducing anxiety and slowing an overactive mind is inhalation.
Oils used by aromatherapists to decrease anxiety, enhance mood, and reduce stress include (d’Angelo, 2002; Lis-Balchin, 2006):
Oils that are synthetic and called fragrance or perfume oils will not offer the therapeutic effects pure plant-extracted oils will and should be avoided. Oils need to be bought from a reputable source and no, Walmart, is not a reputable source. I order my essential oils from Young Living and use one of their diffusers in my therapy room. I’m impressed with their seed to seal process.
Like all medicinal products, it’s important to research oils before using them. Essential oils can be toxic, produce side effects and/or cause allergic reactions. Effective use requires knowledge to safely administer oils.
Butje, A., L.M.T., Repede, Elizabeth, MS, APRN-BC,F.N.P., C.M.H., & Shattell, Mona M,PhD., R.N. (2008). Healing scents: An overview of clinical aromatherapy for emotional distress. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 46(10), 46-52.
d’Angelo, R. (2002). Aromatherapy. In S. Shannon (Ed.), Handbook of complementary and alternative therapies in mental health (pp. 71-92). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Lis-Balchin, M. (2006). Aromatherapy science: A guide for healthcare professionals. London, United Kingdom: Pharmaceutical Press.