This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils to provide an array of therapeutic benefits. The inhalation of these highly concentrated compounds of plants and flowers stimulates the brain’s limbic system, a structure that plays a role in emotions and behavior.
Here are some of the best oils for relieving anxiety.
One of the best known and most highly prized oils, lavender has been shown to enhance sleep quality. Folk medicine has used this calming scent to treat tension, and animal and clinical research has provided evidence of its anti-anxiety effects. One such study, published in the International Journal Neuroscience, found people who inhaled a 10 percent solution of lavender oil for three minutes had lower anxiety scores.
A valuable sleeping aid, cedarwood induces the release of serotonin, which converts into melatonin, thereby promoting restful sleep. Because of its tranquilizing properties, the oil is recommended for chronic anxiety.
A 2011 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine tested the effects of bergamot on elementary school teachers, as they are known to work under constant stress. It found a 10-minute weekly inhalation of the essential oil produced a significant lowering of the physiological stress signals of blood pressure and heart rate. Studies on orange oil, a fruit in the same citrus family as bergamot, show it has anti-anxiety properties as well.
Known as a central nervous system tonic, vetiver can decrease jitteriness and is helpful in panic attacks. An animal experiment published in Natural Product Research suggests the oil may lower anxiety.
Soothing to the emotions, rose oil has been used to help relieve anxiety, panic attacks and depression. In a study appearing in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, women who received a 10-minute inhalation of the oil had reduced anxiety compared to a control group of women.
Uplifting and calming, ylang ylang may help alleviate depression and anxiety. In addition, it has been used for enhancing sedation. Research published in the Journal of Exercise and Rehabilitation discovered aromatherapy with the oil reduced the blood pressure and heart rate of healthy men.
The quality of products that call themselves essential oils differs greatly. Look for preparations that don’t list synthetic ingredients or additives. Make sure the Latin name is listed on the label, and look for an oil that has been extracted through mechanical cold pressing or distillation.
Aromatherapy methods vary, but a popular method involves using a room diffuser. You can also mix essential oils with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, and massage them into the skin. Although the most common side effect is a rash, some oils have been known to cause serious allergic reactions. Never apply them directly to the skin, and don’t use a greater amount than what the directions advise. The diffuser method is safe for most people.