The world has been upside down for so long, that it’s hard to imagine things the right way up.
For many years, aromatherapy has been used in a variety of holistic treatment plans, for physical and mental illness. That’s not to say essential oils are a miracle cure-all, despite some aromatherapy enthusiasts claiming them to be. But research suggests using essential oils for anxiety and depression might actually be a brilliant idea.
Over the years, we’ve heard so many personal stories from our customers about how they’re using essential oils to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, and lift their spirits. We couldn’t resist investigating further, and discovered a number of research papers on the topic.
Right now, more people are experiencing poor mental health than ever. The impact of numerous lockdowns and limited socialisation means people are feeling increasingly more isolated. For many people, the prospect of restrictions being lifted is equally as overwhelming. Post-pandemic anxiety is all too real.
Which made us wonder: can aromatherapy help with post-lockdown anxiety?
Based on recent studies, the answer is yes. We’ve explored research from the last five years on which essential oils might be able to help with feelings of anxiety and stress. One theme that consistently appeared was that specific essential oils can help reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormones), and help users get a better night’s sleep.
According to one paper last year, a balm made with lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver reduced plasma cortisol levels in rats. The study suggests these oils could be used topically as a treatment for chronic stress. If this is replicated by humans too, these essential oils could form part of a balanced treatment plan for reducing stress and increasing feelings of relaxation and calm. Lower stress levels mean a better night’s sleep.
It’s thought that the combination of linalool and linalyl acetate in lavender have an anxiolytic effect. Through inhalation, lavender oil can reach the parts of the brain linked to memory and emotion, which is important when it comes to managing anxious feelings.
Research points towards essential oils having a significant impact on the central nervous system, too. Multiple clinical trials have provided evidence for essential oils triggering different neural pathways, and stimulating feelings of relaxation, contentedness, and focus. This could mean we see more formal treatments incorporating essential oils in the future.
It goes without saying, the essential oils community could use a little more research and evidence to quantify the impact of using these oils. But based on some of the research above, inhalation and topical application of essential oils could help with the management of anxious feelings.
If the thought of leaving lockdown is keeping you up at night, it’s likely that using essential oils such as lavender or peppermint could reduce your cortisol levels, and help you get a good night’s sleep.
Inhalation seems to be the most effective, and researched method. Try a few drops of oil in your diffuser and monitor how they make you feel. Rotate your favourite scents, or reach for something new if you’re not getting the desired result. Aim for oils that contain linalool and linalyl acetate such as lavender, ho wood, and coriander, because these components are believed to have anxiety relieving properties.