Essential oils can be used to help promote a state of mind. For example, stimulating oils can be used to enhance focus, while oils that are calming enable us to relax and help to combat the effects of stress.
Essential oils have many components that affect the nervous system, helping to lift mood and enhance wellbeing.
For example studies show that the compound linalool in lavendar and clary sage reduces anxiety, while limonelle, found in many citrus oils, can ease anxiety and lift depression.
Chamomile and bergamot essential oils contain the compounds alpha and beta-pinene, which also work as antidepressants, helping to lift the spirits and increase feelings of wellbeing.
When we feel anxious or depressed, it’s not just our minds that are affected, our bodies can also suffer. For example, we tend to hold tension in our muscles when we are anxious. Many oils have both mood enhancing properties and physiological effects so that they treat both the mental and physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
An aromatherapy massage adds the inherent relaxing benefits of touch to an oils therapeutic effects, which can be profoundly calming and uplifting.
Even without the benefit of touch, simply smelling a pleasant aroma, such as a mandarin or vanilla bean, can reduce stress-induced muscle tension.
The relaxing effects of oils are well documented. How they help us relax is a complicated process thought to involve several parts of the brain.
One theory is that linlool, found in oils such as lavender, regulates the neurohormone GABA (gamma animobutyric acid). This in turn regulates levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine.
Improve concentration and focus
Some oils clear and refresh the mind. For example, inhaling rosemary essential oil has been shown to improve memory by up to 75 per cent. The oil contains the compound eucalyptol, which acts in a similar way to dementia drugs by increasing a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that helps regulate brain activity.
Many essential oils can either relax or stimulate as needed and are called adaptogens. These balance body systems in a process known as homeostasis, gently calming and stimulating.
Adaptogens help the body to process stress by recharging the adrenal glands, which can be over stimulated or exhausted from stress. Lavendar, rose, and geranium are examples of adaptogens.
Credit: Neals Yard Remedies, Essential Oils.