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Aromatherapy, anxiety and stress

30-45% of my clients initially come to me for aromatherapy support because they are stressed or suffering with anxiety, but what do we mean by stress? Generally, it refers to pressures we feel under. Occasionally stress can be useful. Imagine you are taking an exam. If you don’t get a bit stressed by the idea of it, you won’t revise and might not pass it. In this instance stress has helped us power through and get the job done.

Sometimes though, stress can be long term or the pressure it brings can be overwhelming. This can start to impact our thoughts and behaviours and may lead to physical or mental health issues. If you feel this is the case, please seek support from a medical professional.

In our treatment rooms, as aromatherapists, we often turn to a number of essential oils to support clients. Here are just a few we may use:

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – is a wonderful ‘go to’ for times of anxiety, stress and tension. I believe it is one of, if not the, best essential oil for irritability, anger, frustration and PMS.  

Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)– is grounding and centering. It imbues a sense of strength and stills the mind which is useful if you have lots of mental chatter!

Petitgrain (Citrus x aurantium) – is uplifting yet relaxing, I sometimes use this in sleep blends. This essential oil is from the same tree as neroli. Petitgrain comes from the leaves, neroli from the flowers.

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) – has a distinct smell that is often reminiscent of the 1960’s! Patchouli can help us relax and unwind.

Rose (Rosa damascena) and Neroli (Citrus x aurantium) – both are very expensive floral essential oils, but are comforting, calming and balancing. I use a lot of neroli in my work.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – probably the most famous essential oil, but most people have a love or hate relationship with the aroma. It can be wonderfully soothing and may be used for rising panic. It is one of the most widely researched essential oils for stress.

Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) – this was used as far back as the 18th century for ‘nervous disorders’. In my aromatherapy career I have as yet to meet someone who does not like this aroma!

Interestingly both sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) have both shown good results in calming anxiety before going to the dentist. (Lehrner J, Marwinski G, Lehr S, Johren P, Deecke L. (2005) Ambient odours of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiol Behav, Sep, 86(1-2):92-5).

More unusual ones include ho wood which is a comforting easily tolerated aroma and I often use it when clients feel overwhelmed or fragonia® which is wonderfully balancing. If you are feeling unable to manage the stress in your life it is essential that you go to your GP and / or see a counsellor / therapist / other mental health practitioner. Aromatherapy should not be used as a substitute for medical or mental health intervention.

These blogs and any associated recipes are for education purposes only. Do not use essential oils without consulting a trained aromatherapist, especially if you have any medical conditions, are taking medication or are using with babies, children and the elderly. Please do not take essential oils internally or add to the skin undiluted. Please read introductory texts on the subject that explain safe and appropriate dilution.  Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young (2014) provides very detailed in depth safety information.

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