Stress plays a huge part in our health. There are many recommendations for managing stress with essential oils. Do they work?
What Is Stress?
Stress does actually have a good purpose as a survival technique. When we were cave people, stress served worked to keep us alive and away from the tigers. It shifts the body from the rest and digest phase into the fight or flight mode so we are ready to respond. Muscles contract to make us run faster. Pupils sharpen so we can see in the dark. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, sweating increases, and digestion decreases. Stress also triggers a cascade of hormones that make the body produce cortisol. Cortisol makes sure there’s always enough sugar available in the blood, which helps the body sustain the stressor for longer.
The problem these days is we never come down from our stress. We are constantly running around like there is a tiger on every corner. Chronic stress leads to chronic activation of stress hormones and when it is too high for too long, there are negative consequences. Immune function fails, mood disorders show up, cardiovascular disease sets in. Stress also causes obesity, menstrual problems, skin problems, gastrointestinal problems, cognitive problems, and many other things.
Managing Stress With Essential Oils
We know that simple things like a healthy diet, exercise, good sleep hygiene, relaxation, and connection with others all help control stress. But sometimes stress is too high. Sometimes those things do not do enough by themselves. This is where managing stress with essential oils comes in and it’s one of my favourite ways and most requested ways to use essential oils.
The greatest way that essential oils work in managing stress is through reducing cortisol. There are a variety of studies that demonstrate that simply inhaling certain essential oils will reduce salivary cortisol. These include:
Children visiting the dentist office had 2 appointments. At one, they didn’t use essential oil, and at the other, they inhaled orange essential oil. They measured salivary cortisol before and after each appointment. After inhaling orange essential oil, salivary cortisol was lower.
Another study looked at babies and mothers. Two groups of moms and babies used lavender essential oil the bath with some grapeseed carrier oil. The babies who had the lavender cried less and slept longer. The mothers also were calmer, had lower cortisol, and also slept better.
How To Manage Stress With Essential Oils
These studies indicate that simply inhaling these essential oils is an effective way to manage stress and cortisol levels. However in treating clients, I have also found that a combination of topical application and inhalation is even more effective.
Use the essential oils in a blend of 50-90% dilution. Apply to the back of the neck 3 times per day and inhale from hands with focused breathing. Also, you may add them to a diffuser. Do this for 21 days.
Additionally, I usually suggest adding 5 minutes of daily meditation, 20 minutes of daily brisk exercise, and consulting a holistic nutritionist for healthy eating management.
Yaribeygi, Habib et al. “The impact of stress on body function: A review.” EXCLI journal vol. 16 1057-1072. 21 Jul. 2017, doi:10.17179/excli2017-480
Jafarzadeh, Mehdi et al. “Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial.” Advanced biomedical research vol. 2 10. 6 Mar. 2013, doi:10.4103/2277-9175.107968
Field, Tiffany et al. “Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants.” Early Human Development vol. 84, issue 6, June 2008. 399-401
Seol, Geun Hee et al. “Randomized controlled trial for Salvia sclarea or Lavandula angustifolia: differential effects on blood pressure in female patients with urinary incontinence undergoing urodynamic examination.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 19,7 (2013): 664-70. doi:10.1089/acm.2012.0148