The New Year has begun and your list of to-dos and resolutions is longer than ever, but before you get bogged down on all your ‘have-to’ and ‘need-to’ let’s slow down and relax. So go put some water on, brew some of your favorite tea and sit down while I share with you some of my favorite essential oils for relaxing and reducing stress.
The very first essential oil that comes to mind for relaxation and stress reduction is Lavender. I think that EVERY home needs to have a bottle of this magical single oil. Lavender essential oil is steam distilled from the flowing tops of the Lavender plant (Lavandula angustifolia). Lavender contains aldehydes and esters that are very calming and sedating to the nervous system (including both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems). These substances allow us to relax instead of getting caught in our usual anxiety downward spiral. Some researchers at the University of Miami found that inhalation of lavender oil increased the beta waves in the brain, suggesting heightened relaxation! A 2001 Osaka Kyoiku University study found that lavender reduced mental stress and increased alertness (though this does not seem to be the case with my husband).
I love to use lavender any time either my husband or I have hard time getting to sleep (this is a common problem when two talkative firstborns get married… brains rarely cease in activity). Lavender is one of few oils that can be used ‘neat’ or undiluted on the skin (on those age 2 and up)! I put a roller on the top of mine and roll it on my neck or even just my pillow for a refreshing night’s sleep. My husband refers to it as his knock-out drug, as soon as I apply it to him, it calms him to the point of sleep.
Lavender is great for many other things as well, most notably: tissue regeneration! Whether it be stretch marks, acne, eczema, rashes or my favorite: burns! The French scientist René Gattefossé first discovered lavender’s ability to promote tissue regeneration and quicken wound healing when he severely burned his arm in a laboratory accident. Long story short, I had a ‘run in’ with our woodstove a month back and severely burned my hand as a fireball rolled across my hand and up my arm. To look at my hand now, you wouldn’t even know. There is no scarring or marks of any kind! Lavender is also an excellent antifungal, analgesic, anti-tumoral and even repels scorpions! So next time you need some time out to relax, draw a warm bath and add some lavender essential oil to the water. And if you don’t have time for a bath, rub some coconut oil mixed with a few drops of lavender oil all over your skin for some relaxing moisturizing benefits.
Citrus Oils are my next go to when it comes to stress… and when I don’t want to relax to the point of sleep, but rather de-stress and keep up the pace. Citrus essential oils are not considered to be ‘true’ essential oils as the oil is cold pressed from the rind of the fruit vs. being steam distilled from a part of the plant. All citrus oils contain d-limonene in varying amounts. D-limonene is an oil nutrient called a ‘terpene’ and is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory! This is great when it comes to stress, since most stress is ‘oxidative stress’ which is stress caused by oxidation from free-radicals. So when you add an oil to your body (internally or externally) that is an ‘anti-oxidant’ you are ridding your body of stress on a cellular level! A 1995 Mie University study found that citrus fragrances boosted immunity, induced relaxation, and reduced depression. Below is a list of citrus oils and their respective d-limonene levels:
Grapefruit: 88-95%, Lemon: 59-73%, Lime: 50-60%, Orange: 85-96%, and Tangerine: 85-93%
I love the blend Citrus Fresh™ (Orange (Citrus aurantium), tangerine (Citrus nobilis), mandarin (Citrus reticulata), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), lemon (Citrus limon), and spearmint (Mentha spicata) ). It is a wonderful all around citrus oil, with a foundation of mint. It provides a nice pick me up and is great to wear as a natural fragrance. Just keep in mind, that just as fresh cut fruits turn brown in the presence of oxygen, a citrus essential oil is photosensitive, meaning that it will turn brown on your skin in the presence of UV light (aka sunshine or tanning beds)! So it is recommended that you either apply it on skin you will cover with clothing, or reduce sun exposure after application.
Other than boosting my mood, I like to use citrus oils in my water* (just don’t use a Styrofoam cup or they will dissolve it). They help with digestion (reflux and heartburn… grapefruit is my favorite) and boost my immune system as they are composed of 100% bioflavinoids! They also add some versatility to plain water without sacrificing its beneficial properties. I have also used lemon essential oil to remove gummy substances off of surfaces, and rubbed all over the chest can help to reduce fever! Citrus oils are great for cleaning because of their anti-bacterial properties, which is why you see them in so many cleaning products! When you use real citrus essential oils in your cleaning products, not only are you cleaning your home without harmful chemicals, but you are boosting your mood as well! The other wonderful thing about citrus oils is that because they are some of the easiest to produce, they are the least expensive, making them the least expensive to experiment with.
Valor® Essential Oil Blend, is what I would call ‘Bravery in a Bottle.’ It is my go to whenever I am experiencing anxiety. Valor is a blend of Spruce (Picea mariana), rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum) and frankincense (Boswellia carteri) in a base of almond oil. It has a slighty sweet evergreen scent, and is wonderful for both men and women. It is my husband’s favorite scent. I am a very outgoing person, I love to talk and make new friends, but if you stick me in front of a group of people and ask me to speak, I’m going to get tunnel vision and melt into a puddle on the floor. To this day it surprises me that I passed my college speech class… let alone get an A. I am NOT good with any kind of public speaking. So this past summer I helped out at a fair tent where I spoke to fair attendees on the benefits of essential oils! I started to feel out of breath, and nervous as we opened the tent when a friend suggested I put valor on my shoulders. Before I realized it, I was speaking calmly and easily with all kinds of people! It absolutely amazed me. Valor contains Frankincense essential oil, which is high in sesquiterpenes. Sesquiterpenes can increase oxygen levels in the brain. The stimulation of both aroma and oxygenation seems to affect the amygdala (the part of the brain that controls your mental and emotional states) in ways that facilitate the release of stored emotional blocks! So next time you feel that nervous tension build up, grab your Valor (which even comes in a roll on!), take deep breath and keep on going. You never know what is around the next corner!
These are just a few of the many essential oils that I enjoy using in my everyday life. They are easy to incorporate and unlike chemical fragrances, can actually help you both emotionally and physically in your daily life! Let 2013 be the year that you incorporate essential oils into your daily life! If you have any questions about where and how to buy quality therapeutic grade essential oils, you will find more information on my blog.
*Disclaimer: I do not recommend any brand but Young Living Essential Oils for internal consumption.
Sarah Adamo lives in Southeastern Wyoming. She is married to her best friend, Jacob, and they will be celebrating 10 years of marriage this year! She is a homeschool mom to her 5 children, ages 8 and under, and works on her blog when she can squeeze out the time. She and Jacob are expecting their 6th blessing in the early spring! She loves to eat good food, read books, play with essential oils, learn new things, and spend time with her family. You can also find Sarah on Facebook and Twitter.