People have been harnessing the power of medicinal plants for thousands of years. You've probably seen plant-based extracts used in everything from teas to skincare products. Some plants have gained attention in the field of medicine for their therapeutic properties. For instance, lavendar, marjoram, and ylang ylang have been used in the treatment of high blood pressure.
But the healing power of plants goes beyond just the physical. Researchers have also started to use plants to relieve mental health symptoms. Concentrated plant extracts, also called essential oils, have been used in clinical trials to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and other conditions like panic attacks. Using essential oil blends for anxiety or panic attacks provides a cost-effective way for people to take their mental health into their own hands.
Basic Essential Oil Treatments
Essential oils are plant extracts that are highly concentrated. Essential oils can be extracted from flowers, herbs, and trees. The plant materials go through a process of pressure and the distillation to create the oils. That is, plants or fruits are either pressed or steamed for their oils.
Essential oils maintain the natural smell and flavor of the plant that they are derived from. For example, if a peppermint plant is pressed and distilled, the essential oil has the same minty taste and flavor.
Essential oils have a wide range of uses . For example, they have been used to promote sleep and relieve pain. There are two main treatment methods that use essential oils to take advantage of their benefits.
One popular use of essential oils is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy combines smell or 'aroma' with healing practices, 'therapy.' In aromatherapy practices, a person inhales the scent of the essential oils to experience its benefits. For example, when you start to feel stressed, you might smell your lavender essential oil to gain a sense of calm.
Essential oils can be infused into body oils and lotions and are often used to complement massage therapy. For example, if you want to experience the cooling sensation of peppermint on a sore knee, you can apply a lotion that contains the essential oil to the area. This will allow your skin to feel the physical sensation of the oil. Or, you can schedule an appointment with a massage therapist and have them use the oils in their practice to relieve your pain.
It's important to know that essential oils are highly concentrated and should never be applied to the skin directly. Versions that are meant for topical use are mixed with carrier oils, such as coconut oil, which dilute the essential oil. This makes them less harsh. Talk to a massage therapist or your healthcare provider to learn the best way to use essential oils blends topically.
Essential Oil Blends and Their Uses
Essential oils are used in holistic medicine, a form of alternative medicine that takes the whole person into account when treating illnesses or ailments. Practioners may use essential oils in aromatherapy or massage to treat anxiety, a condition where you are likely to feel on edge or consumed by constant thoughts of worry. There are a number of essential oils that have been shown to create a sense of calm which can be helpful if anxiety is affecting your life.
Use the chart below to see the potential benefits of each essential oil blend. Then learn more about each essential oil blend below.
|Does it have calming effects?||Does it help with inflammation?||What other positive effects does it have?||How is it often used?|
|Chamomile||Yes||Yes||Aids in sleep, reduces joint pain, relieves symptoms of depression||Aromatherapy|
|Eucalyptus||No||Yes||Reduce blood pressure and pain symptoms||Aromatherapy|
|Geranium||Yes||Yes||Aids in sleep, reduces blood pressure||Aromatherapy|
|Ginger||No||Yes||Protects against germs||Aromatherapy and massage therapy|
|Lavender||Yes||No||Relieve headaches, aid in sleep, stabilize mood||Aromatherapy|
|Orange||Yes||No||Regulate blood pressure and heartrate, reduce fatigue||Aromatherapy|
|Peppermint||Yes||Yes||Relieves headaches and reduces pain||Aromatherapy and massage therapy|
|Rosemary||Yes||Yes||Boost memory and cognition, and reduce stress||Aromatherapy|
Essential Oils Blends for for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
These essential oils can provide a calming effect if you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or are in the midst of a panic attack. The oils alone should not be used to manage a psychological condition, but with guidance from your healthcare provider or behavioral health specialist, you may find that they can help you to find relief when you need it.
Lavender essential oil is made by pressing the flowers of the Lavandula plant. You've probably seen sleepy time teas and relaxing bubble baths with lavender or its essential oil as an ingredient.
Research has found that lavender essential oils are able to reduce anxiety, stabilize mood, and also aid in sleep when used in aromatherapy. In addition, one research study found that lavender essential oils can relieve headaches when the scent is inhaled for a period of 15 minutes.
There are two different kinds of orange essential oil. Sweet orange, also known as Citrus sinensis, and bitter orange, also known as Citrus aurantium. Both oils have been the topic of research.
One study from the journal of Complementary Medicine Research found that these orange essential oils can reduce negative emotions and fatigue when used in aromatherapy. In addition, these oils may also help regulate blood pressure and heart rate.
Geranium, also called rose geranium, is derived from the Pelargonium graveolens plant. This essential oil is often used in aromatherapy and has been shown to decrease anxiety symptoms and reduce blood pressure.
One study from the journal Nursing in Clinical Care found that patients who used geranium essential oil in aromatherapy for a period of 15 days showed statistically significant reductions in feelings of anxiety. In addition, geranium has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that can also aid in sleep.
Essential Oils Blends for Pain and Inflammation
People with anxiety often experience inflammation. Inflammation is the way the body's immune system responds when an invader or threat is present. Inflammation can be triggered by stress. And, since people with anxiety experience increased rates of stress, they often experience symptoms of inflammation, as well. Inflammation can cause joint and muscle pain that can make it difficult to do all kinds of daily activities.
Peppermint oil is derived from the peppermint plant. Peppermint itself is a blend of two types of mint: water mint and spearmint. Peppermint is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. A blend that includes peppermint oil can be applied to the skin to help with joint and muscle pain due to inflammation. The oil can also be inhaled to reduce pain in inflicted areas and it has also been used topically during massage therapy to increase attention and reduce anxiety.
The chamomile plant and it's blossoms are used to make chamomile essential oils. Chamomile has been used throughout history to promote sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Studies have found that chamomile can influence antioxidant activity, which helps reduce inflammation. Clinical trials have found that it might reduce knee and back pain and potentially reduce symptoms of depression. However, most studies call for more research to be done so that these benefits can be fully understood.
Eucalyptus is a genus of flowering plants that are blue-green in color. There are many different varieties of eucalyptus trees and leaves that are used in making the essential oil.
One study from the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that using eucalyptus oil in aromatherapy reduced pain and inflammation, and decreased blood pressure in study participants who had recently undergone total knee replacement surgery. After using eucalyptus oil in aromatherapy for three days, participants felt a significant reduction in pain.
Rosemary, also called Rosmarinus officinalis, is known to have antioxidant properties. Also, it can reduce inflammation due to its rosmarinic acid molecules.
One systematic review published in Basic Medical Sciences found that rosemary essential oil can reduce symptoms of anxiety, lower stress, and even boost memory and cognition. The same review notes that rosemary has antidepressant properties when used in aromatherapy.
The ginger plant itself is used to create ginger essential oil. Research shows that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. This is due to its special compound known as gingerols, which is responsible for ginger's particular taste.
Research has found it to modestly reduce chronic joint inflammation, but have no positive effects on reducing acute joint pain. Studies have also discovered its antimicrobial properties. which means that it can help protect against germs.
How to Use Essential Oils
There are many different ways to use essential oils in massage and aromatherapy practices. Find a way to engage in the practice that works for you. Maybe even try out a few different options and see what feels best. You can also mix and match essential oils to experience the combined benefits of different oils.
Aromatherapy involves inhaling the scent of the essential oil. You can keep a bottle of essential oil on hand. For example, you can put a bottle in your purse, keep it in your room, or set it at your desk. However, there are also different ways to feel the effects of the aroma.
When using an oil diffuser, it is recommended to put in only a few drops at a time since essential oils are so powerful. In addition, aromatherapy should be practiced at 30 minutes intervals and users should take breaks in between as prolonged exposure to essential oils is not recommended.
- Roller bottles - A roller bottle is a small vile of essential oils that has a round, moveable ball at one end. Similar to some perfume applicators, this ball allows the essential oil to be applied to the skin in a mild fashion. It can help you can keep the smell of the essential oil with you throughout the day. Apply it to areas that you can easily access when you feel anxious, such as the wrists. Remember, essential oils in their pure form should never be applied to the skin directly. Make sure to use a diluted version.
- Reed diffusers - Reed diffusers are often made of glass or plastic and look similar to a vase. If you want to jazz up your office space or room, they may be a good aromatherapy option for you. The diffuser is filled with a base solution that helps enhance the smell of the essential oil that you add to it. Then, reed sticks, which look like long wooden skewers are placed inside of the diffuser. These reed sticks then soak up the essential oil and help spread the scent around a room. Since there is no skin contact, you can use essential oil that has not been diluted.
- Electric diffusers - Electronic oil diffusers come in a variety of shapes and sizes just like reed diffusers. Some models even change colors or play different sounds, such as white noise. Automatic diffusers can work by pressurizing air to disburse the scent in small puffs, or by mixing the essential oil with water and creating a vapor that spreads throughout the room. Find a style that suits your needs, and put it in a place that you can easily access, like your room or desk space.
Essential oils can also be applied topically as a form of massage therapy. No, you don't have to get an actual massage in order to apply them to the skin. You can simply use lotions, body oils, or bath soaks that have essential oils infused in them whenever you'd like. For example, if your knees feel sore after a walk around the block, you might want to apply some eucalyptus-infused lotion to the area.
However, you can also schedule an appointment with a massage therapist that is knowledgeable about essential oils and how to best apply them. They may also be able to recommend certain essential oil-infused products that are safe for skin and topical use.
If you have already purchased a product with essential oils, you can bring it to your massage therapist or healthcare provider to make sure that it has been diluted and is safe for you to use topically. Remember, you should never apply essential oil directly from the bottle onto your skin as it may cause skin irritation or rashes.
Potential Side Effects of Essential Oils
Essential oils should never be consumed orally. The oils are toxic to humans, and even ingesting a small amount can lead to poisoning. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences notes that essential oils are not for everyone and that they should be used with caution.
In rare instances, prolonged exposure to essential oils has been linked to gynecomastia, or the development of breast tissue, in prepubescent males. Authors of a case study involving three adolescents suggest that some oils may affect hormones and disrupt the endocrine system.
Other potential negative effects include:
- Allergic reactions
- Development of skin rashes
- Irritation of the skin or nostrils
- Potential poisoning if ingested
Talk to a Healthcare Professional
Before you start to use essential oils to relieve symptoms of anxiety, you should talk to your healthcare professional. They will be able to answer your questions about holistic medicine, the pros and cons of essential oils, and any safety concerns.
Also, be sure to ask about how to best use specific essential oils you are interested in. For example, some essential oils work best when inhaled and others show more results when they are applied topically. Your healthcare professional may also be able to connect you to a massage therapist that uses the oils in their practice. In addition, they will be able to tell you more about where to apply essential oils for anxiety.
More Research Is Needed
Although there seems to be a positive association between the use of essential oils and the improvement of one's mental health, researchers call for more studies to be done. There are studies with positive findings. However, many other studies show that the results are not significant enough to make the claim that they are effective. Also, as research in the field has just gained momentum in recent years, some researchers have safety concerns about the long-term use of essential oils.
If you're interested in aromatherapy or massage, then essential oils may be a good, cost-effective way to help relieve some of your symptoms of anxiety. In addition, they allow you to have a greater sense of control over both your symptoms and treatment because you get to decide when to use them. People often say to stop and take a deep breath when you feel overwhelmed. Now, you can stop and take a deep breath of scents that have been shown to improve mental health.