Essential oils are concentrated liquids that come from plants.
The term “aromatherapy”, which was first used by a French chemist named Gattelfosse in the late 1920’s, refers to the use of essential oils in a therapeutic way.
Some sources say that over 3000 specific essential oils have been identified since they were first used by the Egyptians thousands of years ago, and their uses include natural healing, perfuming, and mood enhancement. The use of essential oils has become widespread throughout time, making its way into cultures and locations throughout the world. In the western world their use has skyrocketed in recent years.
I firmly believe in the benefits that essential oils provide, especially in the realm of mood enhancement, which makes this a fun post for me to write. I am certainly not an expert in the use of essential oils but I wanted to at least put together a very general piece about them for my Anxiety Toolbox series, because I really think they can be useful when it comes to managing anxiety symptoms. I have only been using them for a little over a year, and when I first started using them, I was a complete skeptic. But since that time, I have experienced their mood enhancing benefits first hand and have become quite excited about them. Here is why.
The Plusses of Essential Oils
- They smell amazing.
- They are easy to use.
- There is a great variety of oils and blends. (The collector in me eventually wants a tiny bottle of every one ever made.)
- In addition to smelling amazing, they have a myriad of therapeutice effects for both physical and mental ailments, as well as mood enhancement.
- They are all natural.
- Most are reasonably priced – as long as you use them as directed.
- There is no shortage of places to get them. Just look for good reviews and educate yourself a bit about the places you purchase from.
- Studies have shown they are safe when used as directed.
- They are portable. Whether via essential oil jewelry, personal diffusers or car diffusers, you aren’t limited to using your oils only at home.
Essential Oils that Promote Calm
I have not come remotely close to trying 3000 essential oils but I have learned through self-education (wonderful Google), as well as books and my own personal use, that there are certain oils that seem to have a positive effect on my symptoms of stress and anxiety. These are some of my favorites.
The name “frankincense” comes from a french phrase which means “quality incense”.
Most of us know frankincense as one of the gifts brought to Jesus by the three wise men, but few among us know exactly what it is. As it turns out, this oil actually comes from the hardened resin of African trees and is said to promote feelings of calm AND improve your ability to sleep.
Is it any surprise that rose oil is used as a stress reliever? One smell from a rose can make you feel heavenly. Studies have shown rose oil to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, both sides of reduced autonomic arousal. Great news for those of us with anxiety!
Lavender is a small bush/shrub that thrives in sunny places such as southern Europe and here in the US. According to a great article from The University of maryland Medical Center, the name lavender comes from the latin word “lavare” which means “to wash”. The article states that research has confirmed lavender to produce calming, sedative type effects when the scent is inhaled.
Valerian comes from the root of a the valerian plant and , to me, it is not the best smelling essential oil around, but it is one of my favorites because I have found it works really well as a stress reducer and sleep aid. Anytime I am having racing thoughts or a difficult time sleeping, I use valerian root oil and it never fails to make me feel calmer or help me sleep. Of all the essential oils I use, this one is by far the one that is most consistent in its positive results.
Ylang ylang is one of the more recently discovered essential oils and its popularity is growing rapidly.
Ylang ylang has a wonderful delicate aroma that promotes relaxation, calm, and as I was doing research for this post, I read that many people say it promotes feelings of happiness and joy. This makes sense to me because one of my favorite aromatherapy products, Zen MONQ, which contains ylang ylang, has always given me a sense of joy that I haven’t been able to explain because I had always thought that the essential oils in the Zen blend only promoted relaxation. I even commented about it in the review I wrote for the product last year. I didn’t put much thought into it, because I was pleased with the effect regardless of whether or not it was intended. But now I get it: it is the ylang ylang. I learn something new all the time.
Ways to Use Essential Oils
Now that you know what essential oils I use to manage stress, you might ask how it is that I use them. Here are a few methods that I use.
Room diffusers are a great way to use aromatherapy while relaxing at home. There are a few different kind: ultrasonic, heat, nebulizer and evaporative. My personal favorite is the ultrasonic diffuser because there are so many different kinds to choose from, and I like how the essential oils are released in a soft mist. They are really pretty to look at….so relaxing… which, for me, enhances the whole experience.
Hand held aromatherapy devices are another method of using aromatherapy that I love. These little devices look like pens and they come with pre-mixed essential oil blends so there is no mixing or work involved with them at all. MONQ’s Zen blend was designed to promote relaxation and it has quite a following amongst people with anxiety because of their ease of use and portability. You just pick up the diffuser, draw in, and then exhale the vapor out your nose which targets your olfactory glands, giving you the desired effect.
Not to be confused with an “e-cig”, these devices contain no nicotine or tobacco and you don’t inhale the aroma vapor down into your lungs. They only contain the oils and other natural additives. Their website is full of great info so check it out if you have questions.
Aromatherapy Diffuser Jewelry
Aromatherapy jewelry has been around for centuries. From bracelets to pendants, they work by applying oils to felt or leather pads inside lockets, and then using your body heat to diffuse the scent.
There are also porous lava stone necklaces or bracelets that you apply essential oils directly to, that release aroma for upwards of half a day.
Car diffusers make going anywhere more pleasant. I love my car diffuser because first of all, I have kids and if I didn’t use it my car would smell like a Happy Meal 24/7. But also, I hate to drive. It makes me very tense and anxious and it helps having my oils with me.
Car diffusers are easy to use, you just add water and a few drops of your favorite oil, plug it into your cigarette lighter and go. They are inexpensive to purchase and easy to maintain.
There are also certain oils that you can apply directly to your skin with a roller ball or just with your fingertips. You don’t want to do this with just any essential oil though because some can be harmful when applied directly to your skin. Read labels and do your research and look for blends that are safe for topical use. There are ways to mix or dilute oils to make them safe for use in that way, but since I have never done that, I am not going to give any advice on that aspect. Just be sure to take the advice of a certified aromatherapist or directly from an adviser at the company you purchase your oils from before trying that on your own. Also be sure to never ingest essential oils and keep them out of reach of children.
Where to Purchase Essential Oils
There are a lot of places to purchase essential oils including DoTerra, YoungLiving, Amazon, and Vitality Extracts. I have purchased from DoTerra, ( their Whisper blend is amazing), and Vitality Extracts has a Stress Away blend that I like very much as well. Wherever you purchase from, just do your research and look for reviews and and don’t be shy about asking questions.
A lot of people have very strong opinions about where you should purchase your oils and what makes one oil better than another. Again, I am not an expert on the topic so I can’t go very deeply into the reasons why you should purchase here or there. I can only tell you what I like and use and let you decide if it is something you would like to try.
All in all, I am a huge fan of essential oils as an anxiety tool.
Consider giving them a try yourself. You never know, you may become as big a fan as I am and wonder how you ever managed to get along without them.
If you are a certified aromatherapist and/or are somebody who uses oils and has advice or tips to share regarding their use as an anxiety tool, please feel free to leave a comment below.