We all experience stress from time to time. In our high-pressure world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety when we are forced to juggle a job, relationships, family and other responsibilities. The problem is that chronic stress and anxiety can wreak serious havoc on your health. Additionally, a person who is constantly dealing with stress and anxiety experiences a reduced quality of life as every moment is overshadowed by feelings of tension and fear.
While there are plenty of prescription drugs available that help a person manage their stress and anxiety, it’s always best to go for a natural approach first. Because these common drugs are known for their side effects, it’s wise to explore a holistic approach to dealing with your emotional woes.
Aromatherapy is an ancient practice that involves the inhalation of essential oils known for triggering emotional responses. Amazingly, science now proves that several essential oils can treat stress and anxiety by slowing down the nervous system and calming the mind. In this article, you’ll learn how to treat your anxiety and stress by inhaling these oils.
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Stress, Anxiety and Your Health
Stress and anxiety are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, these two emotional states differ from each other in many ways. Stress is a feeling of tension and pressure that’s usually triggered by specific circumstances. Anxiety, on the other hand, refers to an emotional disorder that causes a person to experience intense feelings of stress, dread and uneasiness when exposed to certain situations.
While anxiety and stress are two different things, their effects on one’s well-being are extremely similar. Both chronic stress and anxiety disorders trigger similar bodily responses. Both of these conditions cause the adrenal glands to release into the bloodstream excessive amounts of adrenaline, a chemical that is released when the body senses that it is in danger. When adrenaline is running through the blood, it triggers the nervous system which responds by increasing the heart rate and rate of breath. Additionally, someone who is experiencing severe stress or anxiety may experience feelings of dizziness, faintness, stomach pain and chest pain.
In fact, chronic stress and anxiety can lead to very serious health problems down the road. When a person is dealing with constant stress, they can develop high blood pressure, sleep disorders and other physical conditions. In some cases, high stress and anxiety levels can cause heart attack and stroke (source).
Why Prescription Anxiety Medications Aren’t Always the Best Solution
If you go to a doctor and tell them that you suffer from anxiety, they’re most likely going to prescribe you a benzodiazepine medication. These medications are sedatives that quickly slow down the nervous system, eliminating the brain’s ability to perceive everyday stresses as major threats. While these medications are effective, they’re also dangerous.
Benzodiazepine drugs are notorious for their side effects. For one thing, they make people feel incredibly drowsy, putting them at risk of harming themselves accidentally. This drowsy feeling also interferes with a person’s ability to execute everyday tasks like driving and working (source).
Plus, it’s very easy to overdose on these drugs. Especially when combined with other substances like alcohol, taking one pill too many can result in sudden death as the respiratory tract slows down to a complete halt. Additionally, these drugs are highly addictive, requiring frequent increases in dosage.
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Treat Chronic Stress and Anxiety Naturally with Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is the safest remedy for stress and anxiety out there. By inhaling these oils, their healing chemical compounds reach the brain through the nasal passage. Then, they get to work quickly, easing the mind while slowing down the nervous system just like prescription sedatives. Because these oils are inhaled, there’s no worry about overdosing. Plus, they smell great, allowing you to enjoy their intoxicating aromas.
Lavender Essential Oil
The most popular essential oil for treating stress and anxiety is easily lavender oil. For centuries, this oil has been used to reduce feelings of emotional distress. When inhaled, lavender essential oil slows down the nervous system. When a person is dealing with intense stress, their heart rate increases and they begin to breathe at a faster rate. Meanwhile, their thoughts begin to race as the mind believes that the person is truly in danger.
Studies show that lavender essential oil slows down the nervous system by reducing the breath rate and heart rate of the sufferer. In one study, mice who had been given caffeine were exposed to lavender oil through inhalation. Their motor functions slowed down, proving the oil’s tranquilizing abilities. In other words, lavender’s ability to act as a sedative is so powerful that it can counteract the effects of caffeine! (source)
The oil’s ability to affect the nervous system is so powerful that new research is showing that the oil can help dementia patients. Linalool, a leading chemical compound in lavender oil, has been shown to increase cognitive function while promoting sleep. Dementia patients often complain about a lack of sleep and a difficulty with memory. Therefore, the oil can be truly helpful.
In another study, patients who were about to have an IUD device inserted into their vaginal cavity were given lavender essential oil via inhalation. The intent was to decrease their anxiety levels while relaxing their muscles in order to make the insertion of the device easier. The study found that patients who inhaled lavender oil experienced less emotional distress and that their vaginal muscles were more relaxed as well (source).
Yet another study proved the oil’s sedative qualities by comparing its effects with that of a popular prescription anxiety medication. According to the study, lavender essential oil is a suitable alternative to popular prescription anxiety medications (source).
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Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense oil is another essential oil that is often used to treat anxiety and lower one’s stress levels. Like lavender oil, frankincense oil slows down the nervous system, allowing you to feel relaxed and clear-minded once again. Because of how quickly the oil reaches the brain through the nasal passage when inhaled, you can achieve fast relief by simply holding a bottle of frankincense essential oil up to your nose (source).
In one study, a combination of frankincense, lavender and bergamot oils were massaged into the hands of hospital patients. The study’s purpose was to determine whether or not these oils can reduce the feelings of anxiety and depression felt by patients receiving long-term care. The study concluded that these three oils are incredibly effective at treating both depression and anxiety (source).
In another study, the chemical composition of frankincense essential oil was carefully examined in order to determine its anti-anxiety abilities based on its unique makeup. The study found that the oil possesses several unique chemical compounds that are known to slow down the nervous system during an anxiety attack (source).
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Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil is another excellent remedy for stress and anxiety. When inhaled, it has a calming effect on the mind, uplifting one’s mood while slowing down those racing thoughts. Especially when combined with other anti-anxiety essential oils, you can experience profound relief from overwhelming stress and anxiety (source).
Actually, one study determined that the sedating effects of peppermint essential oil are instant. Menthol, the oil’s leading chemical compound, helps the oil enter the brain faster by opening up the nasal passage. Therefore, this oil can quickly stop an anxiety attack dead in its tracks if you simply hold the bottle up to your nostril (source).
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Clove Essential Oil
Clove essential oil contains a high level of linalool, a chemical compound known to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety (source).
When mice were exposed to linalool via inhalation, researchers found that their nervous system slowed down and that they behaved less aggressively toward each other. This study proves that clove essential oil has powerful anti-anxiety abilities (source).
Another study compared the anti-anxiety abilities of linalool with those of Diazepam, a popular prescription anxiety medication. The study found that their effects on the nervous system were similar (source).
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Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood essential oil has the unique ability to combat stress and anxiety without making the patient feel drowsy. This is welcome information considering the drowsiness that occurs when taking most popular anxiety medications. The oil works by slowing down the nervous system quickly, allowing the patient’s state of mind to return to normal (source).
Another study tested sandalwood oil’s anti-anxiety abilities on patients receiving palliative care. According to the study, patients who inhaled the oil experienced significantly reduced anxiety levels (source).
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Rosemary Essential Oil
Cortisol is a hormone that the brain produces when the mind is experiencing high stress levels. This hormone allows the adrenal glands to release adrenaline into the bloodstream, protecting the body against danger by increasing awareness and physical ability. Unfortunately, when one experiences chronic stress and anxiety, excessive cortisol runs throughout the body, depleting the body of its ability to relax and get some much-needed rest.
Rosemary essential oil is unique in that it has been found to lower cortisol levels in the bloodstream, allowing the mind and body to relax at last. By simply inhaling rosemary essential oil, your nervous system will slow down and your cortisol levels will return to normal (source).
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Cedarwood Essential Oil
Cedarwood essential oil is perhaps one of the most well-researched essential oils for anxiety and stress relief. The oil has been proven to act as a natural sedative by slowing down the nervous system’s response to stress. This oil can quickly stop an anxiety attack dead in its tracks by returning the heart rate and breath rate back to normal while slowing down racing thoughts (source).
In one study, researchers had rats inhale cedarwood essential oil in order to examine its effects on the nervous system. Rats who had been demonstrating hyperactivity almost immediately exhibited decreased activity. The study determined that cedarwood oil is a highly effective sedative (source).
Cedrol, the oil’s leading chemical compound, is responsible for its anti-anxiety properties. The oil quickly slows down the brain’s ability to perceive stress when inhaled (source).
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Clary Sage Essential Oil
Although it’s not as well-known as lavender and peppermint essential oils, clary sage essential oil can have a profound effect on the nervous system when inhaled. This oil is commonly used for its ability to tackle a variety of negative symptoms that occur during a woman’s period. The oil is also known for its ability to reduce cortisol levels quickly. Therefore, inhaling clary sage essential oil during an anxiety attack can quickly allow your breathing, heart rate and state of mind to return to normal (source).
In addition to its ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety, the oil also acts as an antidepressant. When inhaled, the oil increases serotonin levels while it reduces cortisol levels. Many studies have found a link between anxiety and depression. When the mind is in a constant state of anxiety, serotonin levels become depleted. Therefore, clary sage oil is capable of putting an end to this common cycle of mood disorders (source).
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Bergamot Essential Oil
Various studies have shown that bergamot essential oil can effectively reduce stress and anxiety levels when inhaled. In one study, one group of patients in ambulatory surgery was sprayed with bergamot oil while another group was sprayed with water vapor. The study found that patients who were sprayed with bergamot oil showed fewer signs of anxiety (source).
In another study, elementary school teachers were administered bergamot essential oil via inhalation. The study found that the oil slowed down the nervous systems of the teachers, proving that it can effectively reduce stress levels (source).
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Essential Oils Remedy For Stress And Anxiety Infographic
About one in four people suffers from an anxiety disorder. Whether you’re stressed out at work or debilitated by an anxiety disorder that controls your life, it’s time to explore the power of aromatherapy. As you can see, extensive research has confirmed what ancient civilizations have known for centuries. The bottom line is that essential oils are fully capable of eliminating stress and anxiety from your life.
Have you ever inhaled essential oils when you were feeling stressed out or anxious? Share your story with us in the comments section below.