As we’ve said in some of the articles and other information we’ve shared on this topic, essential oils are useful aids when it comes to combating stress and anxiety, as they can promote rest and relaxation, and encourage better sleep.
The immediate benefit we get from using essential oil is the amazing fragrance that each one possesses.
The smell has the power to transport us to another plane of existence – it can trigger memories, make us feel happy, or give us a sense of deep enjoyment.
Smelling an aroma that we enjoy can help to calm the mind, warm the emotions, soothe nervous tension and move us towards a more comfortable way of thinking and feeling.
Can our sense of smell really be that effective?
Put simply, yes it can. It is a very subtle and under-appreciated sense and most people pay very little attention to it. However, it is working all the time.
Here are some examples:
- You can’t see it, but you know something is burning because you can smell it.
- You can’t see it, but when to check whether milk is ok to drink, we smell it.
- When we go to buy cosmetics, we smell it first to make sure we like it.
- When we’re cooking, to find out if we need to add something extra, and to find out if we like it, we smell it.
Have you ever experienced the smell of cooking chocolate or baking bread – absolutely delicious!
We surround ourselves with things we enjoy the smell of. That’s partly why everyone’s home smells differently.
Smell is hugely effective at combating stress and anxiety, especially when combined with the physical effects that essential oils have when they are used in the right way on the body.
So, how does our sense of smell work?
Our sense of smell is controlled by the limbic system found in our brain.
This is the oldest known part of our brain and is also known as “the pleasure centre”, mainly because this is the part of our brain that determines what we like, dislike and choose.
It is also the part of the brain that houses our memories, and interestingly enough, this part of the brain is also connected to our hormonal and nervous response systems.
So in simple terms, our sense of smell has a direct action on the way we think and feel, and an indirect action on our hormonal and nervous responses which influences how we think, feel, behave and act. Put simply, how we view the world and how we act in response to our views.
Of course, the added benefit of essential oils is that they also have very wide ranging therapeutic benefits for the skin – so in terms of skincare and general health and wellness, they are a win-win!
How do essential oils combat stress?
Essential oils work in three distinct ways, as stated by Julia Lawless in her book The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils
“…pharmacologically, physiologically and psychologically. The pharmacological effect is concerned with the chemical changes which take place when an essential enters the bloodstream and reacts with the hormones and enzymes, etc; the physiological mode is concerned with the way in which an essential oil affects the systems of the body, whether they are sedated or stimulated, etc; the psychological effect takes place when an essence is inhaled, and an individual responds to its odor.”
Taking that into consideration, essential oils have an immediate effect on an individual when they inhale the aroma. Changes occur by way of the individual’s reaction to the aroma, eg they like the aroma and their mood, sense of self and perception of their environment changes.
Essential oils also have a longer term effect, which can be experienced/noticed when the chemicals of the essential oils enter and mix with the chemicals found in our bodies. These create changes in the body by helping to improve functions of organs and entire systems and affect changes to our hormonal and nervous system responses.
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When it comes to combating stress, what specifically are we looking for?
When it comes to combating stress, we’re looking for ways to:
- Deepen and lengthen the breath.
- Slow down and regulate the beating rhythms of the heart.
- Become more aware of ourselves, our immediate surroundings and the present moment.
- Find joy and happiness, lift our mood and warm our emotions.
- Have positive thoughts and feelings towards ourselves, other people, our situation, our surroundings, our environment, and things that we find in it.
If we’re able to more easily move ourselves towards this way of being, we’re more likely to be able to become calm and relaxed and to maintain a happy and more positive disposition.
In this article we’re highlighting and recommending 10 essential oils that are effective at helping to combat stress, anxiety and worry and that encourage rest and relaxation. Plus, we’ve got a few blends that you might like to try out!
It is important to note that when you are looking to use an essential oil to help combat anything – in this case, stress, anxiety, worry, tension – always use essential oils that have a pleasing aroma for you. This will work better than anything.
And finally, before you use any essential oil, check the safety data – called a contraindication – to make sure it is safe for you to do so.
Oh, and one more thing. Essential oils are not considered an alternative to conventional treatment from medical professionals. They should be used to help maintain a healthy and happy disposition and complement treatment that is available via the medical professions. If symptoms persist, please contact your doctor.
Now… here are those 10 essential oils we promised you!
Benzoin styrax benzoin
Extremely useful for nervous stress and strain, or other general stress-related conditions. Calms the nerves, warms the emotions (and the body), relaxes the senses.
With its sweet vanilla-like warm aroma, it is a wonderful addition to any blend to bring a cheer, a sense of calmness and confidence.
A very useful sedative. Extremely useful for all skin applications and products, especially dry and chapped skin.
Safety data: Do not use on children under four years old. Use in low dilution – strong aroma.
Bergamot citrus bergamo
A refreshing citrus scent. It is invigorating without being over stimulating and in fact, many people find it relaxing.
Joyous, refreshing, uplifting, antidepressant. Good for tension, stress and irritability.
It helps to balance emotions through its balancing action on the hormone release function in our body.
Safety data: Standard bergamot is phototoxic, so please use bergamot FCF on the skin.
Chamomile chamaemelum nobile/anthemis nobilis
Calms the mind, aids restful sleep, helps to alleviate headaches.
Calms emotions and is particularly useful for those who are over-worked/over-working, struggling to turn off a constant internal chatter and combat hyperactivity.
Very useful at combating stress, tension, anxiety, worry and fear. A nerve sedative, calming and relaxing oil.
German chamomile has a strong, warm, herbaceous and pungent aroma. Roman chamomile has a herbaceous, sweet, warm and creamy aroma that is a little more uplifting than German.
Safety data: Avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy and use it in low dilution thereafter. Use well diluted – a very strong smelling essential oil.
Frankincense boswellia carterii
Calming and uplifting, a smoky scent with a hint of lemon. Helps to lengthen, calm and deepen our breathing, traditionally used in meditation.
It is a warm oil that brings cheer to the body and emotions. Also a sedative that helps to relax the senses.
And finally, it is a cephalic which helps to still, focus and clarify the mind, helping with study and concentration.
Safety data: Best to avoid in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Geranium pelargonium graveolens
It is a sedative with balancing and antidepressant properties as well as a regulating effect on the hormones.
A deliciously sweet, warm and floral aroma that some might say is a little creamy in texture.
Geranium is warming for the heart, uplifting for the emotions and brings a cheer to the soul.
Together with strong physical healing qualities, geranium is a go-to essential oil when the need arises for a physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual reset.
Safety data: For those with sensitive skin, use in low dilution because it could irritate further. Avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy. Use in low dilution in pregnancy thereafter.
Lavender lavandula angustifolia
A strong sedative with calming, grounding, warming and balancing functions, lavender helps to ease nervous tension, stress, fear, worry and anxiety.
It is warming for the emotions, calming for the mind and holds strong physical healing and therapeutic properties.
It has a pleasing aroma for most people, with its warm, earthy, slightly floral, sweet and herbaceous scent.
There is debate about this, but high alpine or high altitude lavender is perhaps the best quality and we would highly recommend looking for this!
Safety data: No known contraindications.
Mandarin citrus madurensis
A comforting, soothing and gently uplifting oil with a sweet, citrus and warm aroma.
Helps with nervous tension, restlessness, insomnia and can be used to great effect with children and babies to alleviate tension, stress, anxiety, fear and worry – and moodiness/tantrums!
Safety data: Phototoxic, best not used on skin that is or will be exposed to direct sunlight.
Neroli citrus aurantium var. amara
Also known as orange blossom, neroli has something hypnotic about it and while it is calming and grounding, it also can create euphoric feelings/emotions.
A positive oil that can be used to great effect to help reduce stress, anxiety, fear, worry, and improve poor confidence and low self esteem.
It is a strong oil with a warm, bitter, sweet and slightly floral aroma. Antidepressant and sedative properties make
it useful to those in need of a gentle pick-me-up.
Safety data: Best avoided on children aged 0-4 years old. Very relaxing, so please use it in low dilution.
Sandalwood santalum album
Warm, woody fragrance that is relaxing, restorative, aphrodisiac, soothing.
It has a calming effect on the brain, and in fact was traditionally used in meditation.
Sandalwood is a sedative that can help calm the mind and bring a person into the present moment.
Please note: Please seek Australian sandalwood as an ethical alternative to Indian, as it is now an endangered species in India.
Safety data: If prone to allergies, use with caution and only in low dilution. Otherwise, no known contraindications.
Ylang ylang cananga odorata
Useful for treating anxiety, depression, stress and tension. Creates a sense of relaxed wellbeing.
Euphoric, aphrodisiac, sensuous, calming.
Can help to slow down and regulate the beating rhythms of the heart, and slow down and lengthen the breath.
Floral and exotic aroma – a luxurious fragrance.
Safety data: No known contraindications. Strong fragrance and needs to be used in low dilution as well as moderation. Strong sedative.
The following are some suggested essential oil blends using the recommendations we’ve made in this article.
Please only use essential oils that you enjoy the aroma of, because if you don’t, the effectiveness of the blend you make will be challenged.
We also don’t make any claims about their effectiveness and are instead drawing on years of expert research, observation and personal experience.
Children aged 6 months to 4 years old: Lavender and chamomile.
Children aged 4-8 years old: Lavender, chamomile and mandarin.
To help with sleep: Lavender, frankincense and benzoin; or ylang ylang and lavender; or neroli, sandalwood and benzoin.
Relaxation during the day: Lavender, geranium and bergamot; or frankincense, sandalwood and neroli; or lavender and chamomile.
General health, wellness and happiness: Lavender, geranium and bergamot.
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