Aromatherapy–Scent and Stress

Are you looking for ways to relax and reduce the effects of stress? We are all faced with stress at some point in our lives, and controlling it is crucial to our overall health and well-being. Stress has a powerful effect on our bodies and our minds and has been linked to most serious diseases, including heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. While it is not always easy to avoid stress, there are some simple ways to help you cope with it. Many people use aromatherapy to help them relax and reduce the stress they feel from their busy lives and the continually changing world environment.

Aromatherapy is a complementary and alternative, holistic, and integrative therapy that uses essential oils (either inhaled or applied to the skin) to reduce the perception of stress, increase feelings of contentment, decrease physiological levels of cortisol (a key hormone released during stress), and promote both physical and psychological health.

Aromatherapy is often used in conjunction with massage, meditation, and other therapies to achieve healing. As a holistic practice, aromatherapy is both a preventive approach to health and an active method employed during acute and chronic stages of illness or disease. It is a natural, noninvasive modality designed to heal the whole person (not just the symptom or disease) and to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal, and maintain itself through the correct use of essential oils. Aromatherapy is now one of the fastest growing therapies in the United States and globally, and it is rapidly gaining scientific, medical, and popular recognition.

Aromatherapy is most commonly experienced through the sense of smell. Specific smells and aromas can have a profound effect on our psyches and evoke memories of childhood, lost loves, happiness, sadness, or a whole range of emotions as real as the day they were first experienced. Smell has an immediate impact on the mind and body, is not influenced by language, and is unimpaired by the passage of time.

During inhalation, oil molecules enter the nasal passages, where they stimulate olfactory sensory neurons found on a small patch of tissue high inside the nose. These neurons are connected to the limbic system, or “emotional brain,” a part of the brain that controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone regulation. Because of this relationship, smells and aromas trigger emotions that can cause profound emotional and physiological effects on the body.

The essential oils that induce a sense of calm and help us relax include lavender, jasmine, chamomile, bergamot, rose, clary sage, neroli, sandalwood, ylang ylang, and vanilla. When applying essential oils or smelling them, take a few minutes. Breathe evenly, slowly, and deeply while you consider how the aroma is entering your body, spreading throughout your tight muscles, relaxing your body, and relieving your tensions.

Using Aromatherapy Safely for Health and Healing

  • Aromatherapy is a wonderful modality for healing. Currently, however, there is a lack of regulation regarding essential oils and aromatherapy, so consumers and healthcare providers alike need to keep the following safety issues in mind when considering the use of aromatherapy for health and healing.
  • Never take essential oils orally unless the therapy is provided under the supervision of a trained aromatherapy professional.
  • Avoid the use of essential oils near the eyes to prevent irritation or damage.
  • Store essential oils in a cool place out of sunlight and away from heat to assure they remain potent and effective. Essential oils can also be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Keep the essential oil container closed tightly to help prevent contamination.
  • Keep essential oils away from children and pets that may accidentally ingest them and become ill.
  • Avoid using undiluted phenol-rich essential oils directly on the skin to prevent skin irritation.
  • Only use essential oils obtained from a reputable supplier (someone who can identify the correct botanical name, place of origin, part of the plant used, method of extraction, and batch number of the oil). This helps assure their purity and potency.
  • Use caution when combining aromatherapy with other medications (such as phenobarbital and amphetamines), as essential oils can impact the effectiveness of these medications.