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The Science Behind Essential Oils: Do They Treat Anxiety?


If you’ve been watching the news lately, then chances are high that you’ve come across some interesting information regarding how scents such as lavender can do wonders in calming an individuals’ anxiety.

For some, this news might come as a surprise. However, if you’ve been an avid user of essential oils, then it’s a given that you’ve heard that essential oils, as well as aromatherapy, have been used for decades to address common problems such as sleep issues, pain, and stress.

The Study of Essential Oils

Indeed, a recent study published by the Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, suggests that when one sniffs linalool, a certain compound found in lavender, it imparts an effect to specific parts of the brain similar to anti-anxiety drugs.

The only difference being that the impairing movements associated with medicines such as Valium are not experienced. Additionally, it was discovered that Linalool only affected the brain via smell, sans any absorption into the bloodstream.

This is seen as a positive considering that most people are worried about the side effects of interacting with such medicines. The catch? The given experiment was only conducted in mice. So it’s pretty difficult to tell whether the same effects would be experienced in people.

That being said, previous studies on human beings with essential oils have been shown to have contradicting results.

Lavendar is the most famous oil around and has been used in a number of principals

Dissecting the Authenticity of Health Benefits

In fact, a study published in 2009 by the Holistic Nursing Practice noted that using rosemary or lavender essential oil sachets was linked to a reduction in pulse rates as well as stress level reduction when graduated nursing students were undergoing an exam.

According to Loyola University Medical Center MD and assistant professor of family medicine Eugene Lee, he considers lavender to be quite relaxing. On the other hand, Rosemary has been found to be quite stimulating. That being said, Lee adds that it depends on the type of anxiety that a person has.

In some individuals, rosemary might trigger the brain and even worsen the anxiety that someone is experiencing. Nevertheless, if one has racing thoughts, using rosemary is great in helping them clear their mind so that they can have a better focus.

Moreover, other studies have shown that certain scents can be vital in the reduction of anxiety especially when dealing with hospital patients, adults in hospice care, women in labor, and people undergoing therapy. That being said, multiple studies have shown that there is no effect documented.

Indeed, one particular review by the British Journal of General Practice in 2000 revealed that aromatherapy relayed transient effects mildly on anxiety in people, but the effects were not considered sufficient treatment for anxiety.

Essential oils have received a lot of popularity in the media lately

Are Essential Oils Ideally Helpful?

So what can you carry away when it comes to essential oils while dealing with anxiety?  According to Dr. Lee, there isn’t really none. He believes that some people might find it helpful, while some might not find it effective at all.

The positive might be that when they are used in the right manner and as prescribed, they are usually safe.

The use of essential oils for therapy is known as aromatherapy

Seeking Aromatherapy

That being said, it’s no denying that there are potential risks that come with their use; especially when they are applied directly to the skin or ingested orally.

Chair of Aromatherapy at the American College of Healthcare Sciences, Ms. Amanda Latin, states that anxiety, stress, pain, and insomnia, are some of the main reasons that individuals seek out aromatherapy.

That being said, she advises that people should consult a registered aromatherapist to better comprehend how to use certain scents, and how they will personally affect you.

Indeed, the easiest way for one to include essential oils in their daily lives is to inhale them.

You can opt to use either a sprinkling mechanism that puts a few drops on objects such as our pillows at night, or using a diffuser that disperses fragrance into the air.

Additionally, essential oils can also be used in creams and lotions, bathing, as well as being applied to the skin.

Unfortunately, a few individuals might find this quite irritating especially if the oils are not diluted.

Conclusively, despite lavender being the most popular essential oil with a lot of research on it, it is not the only oil that aromatherapists recommend with anxiety.

Other alternatives include sweet orange oils, sandalwood, and bergamot.


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