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by Anne Ramstetter Wenzel and Jeralynn Burke
Aromatherapy -- using scents of essential
oils to improve our health and well-being -- can be a simple,
effective way to manage stress. Essential oils are concentrated
extracts from the flowers, leaves, bark and roots of plants --
such as lavender, orange, rosemary, and sandalwood. Using plants
and their extracts for our well-being dates back to ancient times.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah proclaims the Spirit
of the Lord has sent him to give "the oil of joy for mourning"
(Isaiah 61:3). And today, the National Institutes for Health
estimates that about one-quarter of the drugs prescribed in the
United States contains an active ingredient derived from plant
HOW ARE AROMATHERAPY
AND STRESS CONNECTED?
The scents of essential oils
help us relax by producing chemical responses within our brain.
Olfactory cells -- at the top of each nostril -- send impulses
directly to the brains' limbic system. The limbic system:
- 1) processes emotions and gut
2) stores and recall memories.
3) controls our response to stress.
Our response to stress originates
within the limbic system, the part of our brain linked directly
to our sense of smell.
WHY DO WE
NEED TO MANAGE STRESS?
When we feel threatened or stressed,
a chemical response is triggered by the hypothalamus in the limbic
system. Adrenaline and cortisol are released, increasing our
blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels. Blood vessels
in our skin constrict; blood is diverted away from the skin and
stomach into the active muscle groups. Our breathing accelerates,
providing additional oxygen and sugar to the muscles and brain.
This physical reaction to stress is a natural and important part
of our lives that can:
- 1) put our bodies and minds
into "high gear" so we can protect ourselves in dangerous
2) enhance our performance under pressure.
3) fuel creativity and provide us with energy and enthusiasm.
But if we face stressful situations
constantly, stress becomes harmful. Imagine the strain on your
body when you're always experiencing high rates of blood pulse,
blood pressure and breathing. If we remain in the "fight
or flight" mode over long periods, we may lose the ability
to "calm down" physiologically. Constant stress weakens
the immune system and has been linked to insulin resistance (a
risk factor in adult onset diabetes), high blood pressure, heart
disease and osteoporosis.
Aromatherapy is a quick, effective
way to combat the negative effects of stress. The scents of essential
oils cause involuntary emotional and physical responses within
us. Certain scents calm us and help focus our energy. We can
use the oils listed below for:
- 1) Relaxation: chamomile, cedarwood,
clary sage, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, neroli,
orange, patchouli, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang.
2) Focus: basil, frankincense, juniper, peppermint and rosemary.
3) Spritual awareness: Cedarwood, frankincense, myrrh, neroli
4) Energy: basil, bergamot, grapefruit, eucalyptus, juniper,
lemon, lemongrass, orange, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme.
A home or office can be scented
using the oils in:
- 1) A dish of warm water or a
simmering pot on the stove (not boiling water).
2) Diffusers (pots warmed by tea candles or nebulizers fueled
3) Spritzers (oils mixed with water, sprayed into the air).
Use six to ten drops of essential
oil for two tablespoons of water. All essential oils, except
tea tree and lavender, should be diluted before using on the
More personal ways to experience
essential oil scents include 6 to 10 drops in:
- 1) the bath or on the tiles
as you shower (test on a shower tile first - some oils are corrosive).
2) 1 ounce (one tablespoon) unscented lotion or oil for skin
3) 1 ounce jojoba oil for use in a massage.
4) on a sachet to carry or keep near your pillow.
DOES IT WORK?
The Journal of Advanced Nursing
reports that in an intensive care unit, patients receiving aromatherapy
experienced significant mood improvement and were less anxious.
Nurses at Tullamore General Hospital (Ireland) report that aromatherapy
improves patients' sleep significantly. In the Coronary Care
Unit, they have found aromatherapy very effective for stress
For more information on aromatherapy,
you can visit http://www.AtlanticInstitute.com/
on the web, or contact Jeralynn Burke of E-Scent-ials directly: [email protected].
Anne Ramstetter Wenzel is owner of Econosystems,
a research, writing and publication services firm in Menlo Park,
Burke is co-owner of E-Scent-ials.
Fine, quality natural aromatherapy products designed to indulge