Monday, January 5, 2015

Aromatherapy to Reduce Stress

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I have focused a lot of time and energy lately researching stress and the negative impact it has on the body. I am looking for ways to improve my general health and well being and lose some weight. My research shows the two are related. Stress hormones like cortisol wreak havoc on the waistline and mine is proof of the negative impact sustained stress can have. I decided this year would be the year that I improve my health and get back into shape once and for all. As I research the fastest ways to get that process started, I have identified stress as a primary cause for many of my chronic health problems and my ever-increasing waistline.

Once I identified stress as one of the primary things I need to control in my life, I decided to look at the various ways I can reduce stress and minimize the effects it has on my body. I already identified dietary changes that I need to incorporate into my life, as poor diets full of processed food only further cause damage to the body and decrease its ability to deal with stress. I also identified supplements and herbs that can be helpful in reducing the negative impacts of my chaotic single-parent lifestyle. 

One thing I have always been interested in, aromatherapy, has been identified as another way to potentially reduce stress and minimize its destruction in my body.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for promotion of physical and psychological well being. It has been practiced in other cultures for thousands of years and its use is incorporated into the holistic practices of modern medicine. Taking slow, steady, focused breaths and inhaling soothing essential oils can be a great way to allow the olfactory nerve to send calmness and peace to your mind.

Because essential oils do not depress brain function, they could be better for you than sedatives. 

It is thought that when inhaled, essential oils affect the limbic system of the brain and can regulate emotions. They can be inhaled directly, diffused into a room or using a diffuser, candles and air fresheners.

Essential oils can also be applied topically using massage oils, bath oils and bath salts.

Everyone responds to essential oils differently so it is best to try different oils and see which works best for you. The synergistic effect of combining some oils has also been found to be beneficial.

Following are a number of oils you may wish to consider using for stress relief. This is far from an exhaustive list, but meant to provide a starting point in using aromatherapy and essential oils to find balance in your body and mind.

Lavender - one of the most popular essential oils and one of the best all-around essential oils, Lavender has powerful healing powers. Lavender gives many people a sense of calm, relaxation and clarity and is soothing to the nerves. It can help induce sleep and soothe muscle cramps. This ultimate adaptogen oil  has helped patients relax while making them alert enough to perform math computations with accuracy and speed.

Bergamot or Orange -This familiar scent, used to flavor Earl Gray tea has an uplifting aroma and can be very healing. Both oils have been used for emotionally based issues like anxiety, stress and depression. Researchers from Mei University in Japan found that patients who had orange fragrance administered to them were able to markedly reduce the amount of anti-depressants they took. The orange oil also restored their endocrine and immune systems to normal levels.

Neroli or Orange Blossom - Calming and relaxing and promotes confidence, hopefulness and peace.

Tangerine- This oil has powerful abilities to calm the nerves and body and restore vigor and energy as well as resolve insomnia.

Peppermint - Uplifting and refreshing, this essential oil is both calming and stimulating. 

Vetiver- The musky aroma of vetiver is often used for stress and insomnia and can help soothe the mind of racing thoughts. 

Ylang Ylang - This oil is relaxing and calming and promotes heart health. It eases tension and helps to balance the hormones. Its therapeutic effects can help you sleep well. It’s especially useful for dealing with anger, stress and by inhaling the aroma one can stimulate circulation and lower blood pressure

Geranium - Known for boosting the immune system and balancing hormones, it calms the nerves and uplifts the mind while balancing the body's systems. It is also thought to relieve tension and stimulate creativity.

Frankincense - This oil has a rich historical background in the uses for soothing and calming the mind and body. It is a good option for relieving tension and exhaustion and is calming and soothing to the mind. Rich in molecules that can permeate the blood-brain barrier, this oil helps carry much needed oxygen to the brain and stimulates limbic function, which includes hypothalamus, the pineal and the pituitary glands.

Spearmint -This familiar scent is good for mental health and is soothing to the mind.

Rose - Very good for handling hormonal imbalances and be calming to the nerves. It stimulates the mind and promotes a sense of wellbeing.

Sweet Marjoram - Known in folklore as the herb of happiness and joy of the mountains, this muscle relaxing, anti-inflammatory scent has sleep-promoting properties. Nourishing and powerful, this oil is effective against stress.

Cedarwood - Also known for its calming properties has been found beneficial in treating ADHD. Stimulating the limbic system, and the pineal gland, this essential oil helps increase the production and release of melatonin.

Chamomile - Both German and Roman chamomile are recognized for their ability to stabilize the nerves and emotions. The German variety is considered to clear the mind and eliminate anger while the Roman variety is recognized for its ability to help with sleep and anxiety.

Jasmine - This stimulating, uplifting aroma can produce feelings of calm and relaxation as well as relieve stress headaches and insomnia.

Sandalwood - Used as an aid in meditation and yoga, this is often regarded as the sacred oil. It targets the limbic system and balances the emotions and the immune system.

Valerian - This oil is often used to enhance sleep, but also can be used as a stimulant. A German study showed improved sleep and fewer side effects in patients when compared to those taking sedatives. 

Vanilla - This homey-smelling oil emulates the scent of mother's milk and can stimulate mental clarity and induce relaxation and tranquillity.

Once again, this is not an exhaustive list of beneficial oils, but is meant to provide a starting point for using essential oils to create a more calm in your life. 

Have you used essential oils for stress? What oils have you found to be most beneficial?

Read more about stress and the negative impact it has on your body and other ways to improve your reaction to stress and lessen its impact on your health:


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