Stress Strikes! Part III – Aromatherapy
One in five adults feel they do not do enough to manage their stress[ in spite of knowing it is detrimental to both mental health and physical health. Wreaking havoc on your wellness, stress:
- impacts your ability to do your job
- interferes with peer/co-worker interactions
- strains personal relationships
- leads to possible burnout, stroke, or depression
- causes high blood pressure and possible cardiovascular disease
- weakens your immune system
Increasing your self-awareness and skills to manage your stress is an investment in your wellness that you will not regret. Be honest; stress is part of your life regardless of your age, race, gender, financial status, or health. But, there is help right under your nose…literally!
In 1910, twenty-nine year old Rene-Maurice Gattefosse was working in the laboratory of his family’s cosmetic firm when he burned his hand badly. Searching for relief, he submerged his hand in the nearest tub of liquid, which happened to be lavender essential oil. After the burn healed quickly and with little scarring, his interest was piqued, and his fascination with essential oils began. He is credited with coining the term “aromatherapy” used as the title of his book published in 1937. However, essential oils have been enjoyed for more than 6,000 years. Used by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans, fragrant oils have a long history of use in medicine, cosmetics, incense, and perfumes.
Essential oils can be applied therapeutically using three different methods: aromatically, topically, and/or internally. Some oils use all three methods while others have restrictions such as ‘not for internal use’ or ‘photosensitive’, meaning sunlight exposure could lead to burning. It is vital that you read the label and follow instructions. Because essential oils are wholly natural and cannot be patented, it is important that you purchase your oils from a reputable source, known for its ethical practices, commitment to producing essential oils in their indigenous habitat, and strict quality control testing methods.
Use a diffuser. Using a diffuser is a common means of infusing the air around you with a scent from the essential oil of your choice. Some devices use water and others use heat to disperse the scent.
Consider dry evaporation. Apply a few drops of the essential oil on a cotton ball or tissue and place it in a bowl near you.
Create your own steam treatment. Place a couple drops into a bowl of hot water. Then put your head over the bowl so that you can inhale the vaporized oil. A towel draped over both your head and the bowl can help trap the steam. Remember to keep your eyes closed during the treatment.
Make your own spray. In a small spray bottle, combine water with a few drops of essential oil and spray the room around you. You can even lightly spray your clothes or pillowcase.
Essential Oil Recommendations
Lavender reduces anxious feelings and promotes peacefulness. Its floral scent appeals to most people. It has antiseptic, antidepressant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is one of the most commonly used essential oil because of its versatility. It will not only soothe stress, but can help with sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, and restlessness.
Vetiver has a calming and grounding effect on emotions. As a member of the grass family, it has a sweet, woody, smoky scent. With its rich and complex aroma, it is used extensively in perfumes. Due to its calming effect on emotions, it is also used in massage therapy.
Ylang Ylang is used to lessen tension and stress, as well as promote a positive outlook. It has a sweet, rich, and spicy aroma. It is frequently used in luxurious hair and skin products for its scent and nourishing/protective properties. Those with very low blood pressure should avoid using Ylang Ylang as it may worsen the condition.
Rosemary reduces nervous tension. It has a fresh, strong, herbaceous, and energizing scent that was considered sacred in Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hebrew cultures. It is also known to ease stomach ailments such as indigestion, bloating, and stomach cramps.
Roman Chamomile is very relaxing and calming for not only the mind but also the body. It has a sweet, floral, almost fruity aroma. While most commonly used in chamomile teas, it can also be found in face creams, drinks, hair dyes, shampoos, and perfumes. It has antiseptic, antidepressant, sedative, and anti-inflammatory properties, among others.
Lemon promotes a positive mood. It has a clean, fresh, citrus aroma. It is very uplifting and energizing providing a refreshing boost. As a powerful cleansing tool, it purifies the air and surfaces, and can act as a non-toxic cleaner throughout the home. It has antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, antidepressant, and antihistamine properties.
Eucalyptus helps clear the mind and promotes feelings of relaxation. It has a refreshing, sweet, and slightly pungent aroma. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing tension. The main chemical components make it ideal for opening airways. It creates a soothing massage experience and can be found in mouth rinses to freshen breath and promote oral health. It carries with it antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties, not to mention the decongestant and deodorant properties, which make eucalyptus abundantly useful in health and wellness products.
Create A Habit
Like any therapy, consistent use is the key to optimizing the effects of aromatherapy. Creating a habit and making aromatherapy part of your daily routine will equip you to not only face the stress in your life, but also give you tools to reduce that stress. Once you have embraced aromatherapy as part of your lifestyle, you can explore more uses for your essential oils topically and internally. While you might find the price tag on quality oils higher than you expected, when stored properly, they can last as many as ten years. Given the versatility of their use in your health, cleaning, cooking, etc., good essential oils are a great investment.
Rene-Maurice Gattefosese published his research over 80 years ago. Since then, countless studies and books have been published. In the late 1970’s, aromatherapy became a major part of alternative medicine throughout the world. Incidentally, the firm founded by Rene-Maurice’s father, Louise, in 1880 still thrives today as a leading provider of specialty ingredients in the beauty and healthcare industries worldwide. Clearly aromatherapy has a long and rich history because it works. Reducing your stress with aromatherapy is a simple, low risk, and cost effective intervention that just may leave you smelling like roses.
If you are interested in learning more about essential oils, please contact our staff member, Kristin Robbins, at 310-989-9480.