Aromatherapy for Stress Relief

Stress is a big problem in the United States and it can have a significant impact on health and wellness. Chronic stress contributes to a variety of conditions such as high blood pressure, GI complaints, insomnia, weight gain, diabetes and even the proliferation of certain types of cancer. There are many effective ways to combat stress, including counseling, journaling, exercising, breathing exercises, massage therapy, acupuncture, and many other therapeutic activities. Aromatherapy is a great option when you don't have time to hop on your bicycle or leave work to take a walk.

Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years and is based on the use of volatile plant oils to enhance mental, physical and spiritual wellness. Aromatic plants have been used throughout history for incense, medicine and perfumery while the distillation of the oils is believed to have happened in the last millennia. Although the word "aroma" implies inhalation, essential oils can also be used topically and in limited quantities and instances, even internally. Researchers have found that inhalation of particular essential oils can actually stimulate the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that have a soothing and positive effect on mood and disposition.

Lavender is probably the most diverse of essential oils and is a great option for anyone trying to find additional ways to better manage stress. You can enjoy the benefits of lavender orally, topically or via olfactory stimulation. In recent clinical trials, oral soft gels of lea vender oil have been shown to reduce occasional anxiety and to have beneficial effects on disturbed sleep, somatic complaints and quality of life. Spraying lavender in your car before commuting, placing a sachet in your pillowcase or dabbing some on your wrists are just a few ways to take advantage of the calming effects of this pleasant aroma.

While lavender may be the most popular essential oil for stress relief, there are many alternatives that are also effective. Bergamot has a light, fruity scent and is a great choice if you are looking for a more masculine scent. Bergamot also has antimicrobial properties and can be used topically to soothe skin problems and irritation. Clary sage offers a sweet, nutty and herbaceous scent that helps to reduce stress while also revitalizing and stimulating those in need. Sandalwood is used in many soaps, lotions and perfumes as it has a wonderfully pleasant and relaxing scent. Geranium essential oil, referred to as "harmonizing" since it is both relaxing and uplifting, offers a fresh, sweet floral scent that is a reminiscent of rose and citrus. 

Whether you use them individually or combined, in the bathtub or in the office, aromatherapy and essential oils are an effective, easy to use and pleasant therapy to add to your stress management tool box.