The Stress-Reducing Benefits of Aromatherapy

BY: 

INSPĪR SENIOR LIVING TEAM

As we continue to face uncertain times across our nation, many people are looking for ways to cope with stress and anxiety and reduce their side effects. Long-term stress can have a number of negative effects on the body, both physically and mentally. In fact, according to The Mayo Clinic, long-term stress can lead to anxiety, irritability, anger, headaches, sleeping problems, digestive issues and chest pain. Among the traditional remedies for combating stress, such as exercising, counseling and eating a healthy diet, many individuals are using other holistic approaches like aromatherapy.

A Brief History of Aromatherapy

According to Healthline Magazine, aromatherapy uses natural plant extracts to treat common health issues and promote overall well-being. The practice of aromatherapy uses authentic essential oils in various ways to strengthen the healing process, while also building the immune system.

While aromatherapy is new to some, the practice has a long history dating all the way back to 100 AD. According to the Alliance of International Aromatherapists, many researchers credit the Persians who used distilled essential oils in their healing practices in the 10th century. The history of aromatherapy is also found in the Egyptian culture where resins, balms and fragrant oils were used by priests for religious ceremonies, offerings and embalming. In this same time period, aromatic oils were being used in ayurvedic practices in China and India. 

By the 19th century, just as German and French physicians were recognizing the potential of using essential oils in treating diseases, many medical doctors were establishing themselves on the use of chemical drugs as an effective treatment for their patients.

However, as modern medicine continues to evolve today, many are going back to aromatherapy to reap its many benefits. Aromatherapy is known for both its psychological and physical benefits. Depending on the essential oil, aromatherapy can help improve mood, promote relaxation and reduce stress. In addition, this practice can stimulate the immune system, ease muscle tension and boost circulation.

When to Use Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is commonly used to treat a wide variety of mental and physical problems from stress and anxiety, to headaches and digestive issues. The essential oils used in this practice trigger messages to be sent to your brain’s limbic system, which controls your emotions, memory and how we learn. When we use aromatherapy, we stimulate the limbic system and are able to communicate our needs with our brain.

Molly Fisher, Director of Program Innovation and Education, at Inspῑr, said “we are excited to incorporate aroma therapy into our programming through nature, using our numerous gardens to not only provide tactile but olfactory stimulation but also using flowers and other natural elements within our garden club programming, as well as crafting and culinary experiences.” While aromatherapy is used to treat a variety of conditions, here are some of the most common:

Stress- When we experience stress, our bodies can experience it too. Long-term stress can cause a wide variety of health problems if it goes unaddressed. Lavender, in its oil form, is clinically proven to reduce stress when used properly. This essential oil is perfect to use in times of stress and uncertainty, because it calms the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and helps the body feel relaxed. 

Anxiety- It’s not uncommon for people to experience anxiety in times of uncertainty. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, there are nearly 40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety. Studies have found that those who use aromatherapy to address their anxiety symptoms have experienced less pain and depression when compared to those who have not.

Insomnia- Quality sleep is essential to brain function and memory, and also lowers our risk of chronic diseases. Studies such as this one published by The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that participants who were given essential oils were able to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer than those who were given a placebo. 

Dementia- Those who have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s might experience occasional to frequent bouts of irritability and frustration. Many dementia patients have found that using aromatherapy helps relieve some of these symptoms. These 7 Essential Oils have shown positive results for helping control the different symptoms.  Susanne Bengstsson, Oceana Director at Inspῑr, works with essential oils and aromatherapy on a daily basis. “The benefit of aromatherapy for our residents in Oceana does make a difference in minimizing anxiety and or depression. Scents such as bergamot, lemon balm, and lavender are particularly effective.”

Chronic Pain- When coupled with a massage, aromatherapy can provide relief to those who experience chronic pain, especially when the pain is mostly muscle-related.

How to Use Aromatherapy at Home

If you’re unable to visit a certified aromatherapist, that doesn’t have to stop you from reaping the benefits of its practice in the comfort of your own home. Here are a few ways you can adopt aromatherapy into your daily routine. As always, if you are new to using essential oils, make sure to contact your healthcare provider before doing so.

  • Add to Your Bath Water- Many people find comfort in soaking in a warm bath, especially when experiencing stressful situations. When essential oils are added to bath water, it can enhance the experience and help you relax and unwind.
  • Use with Steam- Essential oils can help relieve congestion and sinus blockage when they are coupled with steam. Add a few drops of essential oils into hot water and inhale the relaxing scent.
  • Spray on Fabrics- Lavender is commonly used to help relieve stress and also promotes quality sleep. You might consider diluting a few drops of this essential oil with water in a bottle and spray it onto your pillow cases or bath towels.

Essential Oils and Their Purposes

There are hundreds of essential oils, however some can be toxic, so it’s important to do your research before using them. According to Medical News Today, here are the most commonly used essential oils and what they are used to treat:

  • Eucalyptus is often combined with peppermint to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms. However, many people are allergic to eucalyptus, so consult your healthcare provider before using.
  • Lavender can be used to relieve many different ailments including stress, poor sleep, headaches and migraines.
  • Black Pepper, used in its essential oil form, is commonly used to help promote circulation, reduce pain and bruises and improve flexibility.
  • Lemon should be used when experiencing depressive symptoms since it is known to improve mood, while helping reduce any stress-related symptoms.
  • Thyme can also help reduce stress-related symptoms along with fatigue and nervousness.
  • Rosemary can help boost memory, while supporting circulation and the nervous system.

Tips for Using

If you’re using aromatherapy for the first time, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns. While aromatherapy is quite simple in practice, there are a few things first-time users should be aware of:

  • Always remember to use certified 100% essential oils and avoid synthetics.
  • When applying directly onto your body, always dilute the oil or use a carrier, such as lotion.
  • You might consider testing a small patch of skin when using an oil for the first time to check for any sensitivity.

Staying Stress-Free at Inspῑr

We know that these are hard times for everyone. As we prepare to open our doors in the upcoming months our associates at Inspῑr have been working hard to find constructive ways to cope with stress. We offer many virtual events to engage with the community and help everyone find solace during these trying times.  Our team is also on hand to book a virtual tour of our residence, please contact us here!