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Essential oils, stress and anxiety

Essential oils, stress and anxiety

Essential oils to support stress and anxiety

In a world where stress and anxiety seem to reign supreme, I find it really unfortunate that essential oils are not given more prominence. Yet they offer a sanctuary of peace and tranquility.
It is therefore also my duty to share with you the transformative potential of these natural essences.
Essential oils are not just pleasant scents, they are true treasures for the mind and body, capable of transporting us to a state of well-being and serenity.
I will explain to you simply how these drops of nature can soothe our hectic modern lives.

🌿 Impact and mechanisms of stress and anxiety

To deepen our understanding of stress and anxiety, it is vital to understand their nature and their considerable impact on our health.

Stress, often triggered by situations perceived as threatening or excessively demanding, plays a complex role in our lives.

In the short term, it can serve as a catalyst for action and rapid reaction, preparing us to face challenges. However, when stress becomes chronic, it turns into a harmful burden, affecting our physical and mental health.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a prolonged form of worry or fear about uncertain future events or situations. It can paralyze and cause an inability to effectively manage daily situations.

On a biological level, these emotional states activate our sympathetic nervous system. This activation leads to the release of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline.

These hormones have a direct impact on many aspects of our health. They can disrupt our sleep, altering the quality or duration, influence our mood, leading to irritability or depression, and even weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness.

Stress and anxiety, although often confused, are distinct.

Stress is a reaction state to a sudden attack, while anxiety manifests itself as an indefinable feeling of insecurity.

Historically, stress is considered one of the major pathologies of the 21st century, often referred to as the “disease of the century”. It was Walter Bradford Cannon who first established the importance of balance in the human body, a fundamental concept in understanding stress.

The central nervous system, including the brain and its various divisions, plays a crucial role in managing stress and anxiety.

The limbic system, including the hippocampus and amygdala, is involved in memory and is strongly affected by anxiety, leading to hyperfunction of the amygdala and hypofunction of the prefrontal cortex.

During stress, the body releases adrenaline and norepinephrine, causing an alarm response that prepares the body for action. This alarm reaction, as Robert Sapolsky described it, involves a large expenditure of energy, regardless of the nature of the stressor.

Although stress can have a positive aspect by improving motivation and performance, anxiety, on the other hand, is often the result of prolonged exposure to stress and can arise from various unpredictable or uncontrollable life situations.

Prolonged stress also affects memory, disrupting memory recall due to the impact of glucocorticoids on the hippocampus and cortex.

Finally, the response to stress is subjective and varies depending on the individual's personality and background, a concept known as coping.

So, understanding stress and anxiety is about more than recognizing their symptoms. It is about understanding their biological roots and their consequences on our overall well-being.

This understanding allows us to identify more effective strategies to manage them, seeking not only to alleviate their symptoms but also to address their root causes.

🌿Essential oils and their role

Essential oils, as the example of lavender shows, act in a complex and effective way on the body and mind.

Their impact is manifested through different channels: olfaction, skin absorption and, in some cases, ingestion.

Inhaling the aromas of essential oils stimulates olfactory receptors in the nose, sending signals to the brain, particularly the limbic system, a key region involved in the regulation of emotion, memory and stress.

Bioactive compounds found in oils, such as linalool in lavender, have proven relaxing and anxiolytic properties. Lavender can significantly reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, helping to lower the body's state of alert and promote relaxation.

Chamomile, known for its calming properties, acts as a mild sedative, helping to calm the mind and induce sleep.

Ylang-ylang, with its distinctive floral scent, has a relaxing effect that helps decrease tension and encourage a state of deep relaxation.

This biochemical interaction between essential oils and the human body is at the heart of their beneficial effects.

By acting directly on the nervous and hormonal systems, essential oils offer a natural alternative for managing stress and anxiety. They not only contribute to immediate psychological well-being but can also have long-term effects on mental and emotional health, promoting lasting emotional balance and peace of mind.

By integrating essential oils into a daily routine, whether through diffusion, topical application, or in some cases, ingestion, we can take full advantage of their benefits.

Each oil has unique properties that can be tailored to individual needs, providing a personalized and holistic approach to managing stress and anxiety.

🌿 Scientific studies and research

Recent scientific research on essential oils and their effectiveness in managing stress and anxiety is promising.

Beyond lavender, which is well known for reducing cortisol levels, other essential oils have been studied.

Sweet orange oil has been studied for its anxiolytic properties. A study conducted in 2012 (Goes et al., 2012) examined the effect of inhaling this essence on healthy volunteers during a stressful event. This study revealed that its inhalation caused a less significant increase in heart rate in subjects, thus demonstrating its anxiolytic properties, probably due to the presence of large quantities of limonene.

These findings reinforce the idea that essential oils can be successfully integrated into stress management and wellness routines.

In addition to improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety, this research highlights the ability of essential oils to act on physiological markers of stress, offering a natural and effective approach to managing states of tension and of anxiety.

🌿 Essential oils for stress

In the field of stress and anxiety management, aromatherapy offers a diverse range of essential oils with beneficial properties. Here are some of the major essential oils used for these disorders:

  1. Exotic basil (Ocimum basilicum ssp basilicum) - Belonging to the Lamiaceae family, this oil is recognized for its soothing and balancing properties.
  2. Bergamot (Citrus x bergamia) - From the Rutaceae family, it is often used for its calming and relaxing effect.
  3. Noble Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) - From the Asteraceae family, it is known for its sedative properties, ideal for calming the restless mind.
  4. True Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ssp. Angustifolia) and Lavandin Super (Lavandula x burnatii clone super) – These two varieties from the Lamiaceae family are widely used for their effectiveness in reducing anxiety and promoting restful sleep.
  5. Lemon litsea (Litsea citrata) - Belonging to the Lauraceae family, it is appreciated for its calming effect.
  6. Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) - This oil, from the Rutaceae family, is used for its relaxing properties.
  7. Shell marjoram (Origanum majorana) - From the Lamiaceae family, it is renowned for its soothing effects.
  8. Neroli (Citrus x aurantium ssp. amara) – This oil, also from the Rutaceae family, is known for its calming and relaxing properties.
  9. Sweet orange (Citrus x sinensis) and Petit grain bigarade (Citrus x aurantium ssp. amara) - These two oils from the Rutaceae family are prized for their beneficial effects on stress and anxiety.
  10. Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora CT cineole) - From the Lauraceae family, it is often used for its balancing action on the mind.
  11. Rosemary verbenone (Rosmarinus officinalis CT verbenone) - Belonging to the Lamiaceae family, it is used for its stimulating and balancing properties.
  12. Lemon Verbena (Lippia citriodora) – From the Verbenaceae family, this oil is known for its calming properties.
  13. Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) - This oil, from the Anonaceae family, is renowned for its relaxing and balancing effect.

Each of these essential oils offers unique benefits in managing stress and anxiety, contributing to a state of general well-being and emotional balance.

🌿 Integration of essential oils into a well-being routine

Integrating essential oils (EO) into a daily wellness routine can be simple and effective.

It is essential to adopt varied methods of use adapted to your specific needs. In addition to using diffusers to scent your living space with calming EOs like lavender, consider the following possibilities:

  1. Topical Application : Apply diluted EOs to pulse points, such as the wrists, neck, temples or behind the ears. This allows rapid absorption and provides an immediate calming effect. It is crucial to properly dilute EOs with a carrier oil to avoid skin irritation.
  2. Aromatic Baths : Add a few drops of your favorite EO to a hot bath for an immersive relaxation experience. The combination of the warmth of the water and the aromas of EOs can help relieve muscle tension and anxiety.
  3. Aromatherapy Massage : Use EOs in massages for deep relaxation. Massage, combined with the therapeutic properties of EOs, can be particularly effective in reducing stress and improving general well-being.
  4. Direct Inhalation : Breathe directly the aroma of EOs from a roll-on or an inhaler stick. This method is especially useful for quick relief from sudden stress or anxiety.
  5. Complementary Practices : Integrate EOs into stress reduction practices such as meditation, yoga, or physical exercise. Use a diffuser during meditation or yoga practice to create a calming environment, or apply a relaxing EO before or after exercise to enhance recovery and calm.

By combining these different methods, you can create a personalized holistic approach to managing stress and anxiety. Each person may have different preferences and reactions to EOs, so it is advisable to experiment with different oils and methods to find what works best for you. Always follow dilution recommendations and test EOs for skin allergies before extended use.

🌿 Precautions and best practices in the use of EOs

The use of essential oils (EO) requires taking certain precautions, especially in special situations such as pregnancy, in the presence of allergies, or specific medical conditions.

Here are key points to consider:

  • General Precautions :
  1. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding : Certain EOs are not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional before using EOs during these periods.
  2. Children : Be careful with the use of EOs around children. Some oils may be too strong for them.
  3. Allergies and Skin Sensitivities : Always test a small amount of diluted oil on a small area of ​​the skin to check for possible allergic reactions.
  4. Medical Conditions : If you have specific medical conditions, such as asthma or epilepsy, consult a healthcare professional before using EOs, as some may trigger symptoms.
  • Appropriate Dilution :
  1. EOs should be diluted in a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or coconut oil) before skin application to avoid skin irritation or before ingestion.
  2. The generally recommended concentration for dermal application is 1 to 2% for adults, which equates to approximately 1 to 2 drops of EO per teaspoon of carrier oil.
  • Safe Application Methods :
  1. Diffusion : When using diffusers, be careful not to diffuse EOs continuously for long periods of time. Intermittent diffusion (e.g., 30 minutes followed by a break) is often recommended.
  2. Direct Inhalation : Direct inhalation should be done with caution, especially for people with respiratory problems.
  3. Topical Application : When applying topically, avoid sensitive areas such as the eyes, inside the ears, and mucous membranes.
  4. Ingestion : Avoid taking pure EOs. Prefer a dilution in virgin oil or in a spoonful of honey…

By following these guidelines, using EOs can be a safe and beneficial experience.

It is always advisable to obtain information and consult competent professionals, especially in case of doubt or special conditions.

🌿Personal experiences

In my personal journey of using essential oils to manage stress and anxiety, I discovered their remarkable effectiveness when I was a law student at the Faculty of Montpellier.

Exams are by nature stressful and distressing and I had a lot of difficulty tackling them calmly despite giving myself all the means to achieve this.

Fortunately my mother was there to provide me with a roll-on with essential oils to apply to my temples.

Combine that with unlimited pancakes and magnesium capsules and you have near-optimal review conditions.

Today, as a “solo entrepreneur”, I use my oral sleep and stress synergy daily, a powerful combination of a complex of pure and natural essential oils and CBD oil.

The reassurance provided is essential support as my new path pushes me to my limits.

Aromatherapy is truly fabulous, and I use it in all its modes of administration.

I also benefit my family. My 9 year old son, hidden son of Zephyr, has a lot of trouble channeling himself.

He suffers from the famous evil of the century: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)!

Well know that essential oils are once again a great ally.

I simply apply my sleep and stress synergy to the wrists and temples.

By his own account, he feels cooler and it helps him concentrate better.

However, we are all different which means that some formulations work better than others.

This highlights the importance of a personalized approach in the use of essential oils.

Everyone must experiment (by asking advice beforehand) to find the combination that suits them best.

🌿 Comparison with other stress management methods

In our quest to manage stress and anxiety, we often explore a variety of methods, including the use of essential oils (EOs), therapy, medications, and relaxation practices like yoga.

Here is my analysis of how HE compares or complements these other approaches:

  • Essential Oils vs. Therapy : Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, addresses the psychological roots of stress and anxiety. EOs, on the other hand, offer more immediate and sensory relief. Thus, EOs can be a beneficial adjunct to therapy, providing relief in the moment while working on long-term underlying issues with a therapist.
  • Essential Oils vs. Medications : Medications prescribed for stress and anxiety, such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants, work on brain chemistry to manage these conditions. EOs, although they cannot replace medications for those who need them, can serve as natural alternatives or supplements for those seeking less invasive solutions. They offer an option without the side effects often associated with medications.
  • Essential Oils and Relaxation Practices : Relaxation practices, such as yoga and meditation, help manage stress and anxiety by cultivating body awareness and relaxation. The integration of HE into these practices can improve their effects. Personally, I love diffusing a blend of ylang ylang, true lavender and sweet orange during my yoga or meditation sessions to increase the feeling of calm and focus.

EOs are a valuable complementary method in the management of stress and anxiety.

They can be used alone for immediate, natural relief or in addition to other approaches for a more comprehensive and holistic stress management strategy.

🌿 Ultimately

Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils offer a natural and powerful way to manage stress and anxiety, ailments so prevalent in our modern society.

Through my own experience and that of my loved ones, I discovered the remarkable effectiveness of these natural essences, not only as a means of scenting our environment but also as a tool for mental and physical well-being.

Essential oils, with their variety and multiple modes of application, adapt to our individual needs, offering flexibility in their daily use. Whether by diffusion, topical application, oral route or integration into relaxation practices, they constitute a natural and valuable complement to other methods of stress management such as therapy or medication.

This exploration of essential oils in the management of stress and anxiety highlights the importance of a holistic approach to health, where mental, emotional, and physical balance is sought holistically.

HEs remind us that sometimes the most effective and harmonious solutions are found in the simplicity of nature.

I encourage you to experiment with essential oils and discover their transformative potential for yourself.

While remaining attentive to the recommendations and respecting the necessary precautions, aromatherapy can become a valuable ally in your quest for serenity and well-being.

Additional References and Resources

1. Baudoux, D. (2018). Aromatherapy, 100% natural. Waterloo, Belgium: Éditions Amyris.

2. Couic Marinier, F. (2020). The Living Earth Guide to essential oils. Living Earth Editions.

3. Festy, Danièle. My essential oils bible. Editions Leduc.s, 2022.

4. Lory-Anne Galopin. Advice to the pharmacy: the place of aromatherapy in the management of stress and anxiety at the counter. Pharmaceutical sciences. 2016. ffdumas-01495263f

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