Essential oils are more than just a great addition to a relaxing massage. True essential oils are distilled from the bark, flowers, or leaves of a plant and can provide physical and psychological benefits. Internal ingestion of some oils, inhalation, and application to the skin are all methods of using essential oils. The use of essential oils can benefit mood, decrease stress, help prevent disease, and decrease pain.
Aromatherapy for stress and mood enhancement is one of the most well known uses of essential oils. Lavender is the most popular choice for stress reduction. A study done at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York showed improvement in feelings of well-being in patients that were given lavender aromatherapy versus patients that were given a massage or rest. Another study published in Holistic Nurse Practice in March 2008 showed that nurses who used lavender aromatherapy perceived lower levels of stress. Other essential oils that can be helpful for stress or enhancing mood are geranium, chamomile, clary sage, and neroli.
The immune boosting properties of essential oils are numerous. Oils can be diffused into the air to clean and detoxify the air naturally. Diffusion of oils can reduce the number of pathogens in the air meaning that you are breathing in less germs. In addition, essential oils can actually improve the way the body does respond to pathogens when they are encountered. Numerous studies have shown the antiviral effects of essential oils by improving the ability of lymphocytes to take care of invaders and also by changing the membrane potential on our cells to help prevent viruses from entering. Essential oils that can be used to help prevent infection include eucalyptus, oregano, lemon, and cinnamon.
Essential oils are often used for pain management. They can be used to reduce inflammation, give a local anesthesia, give a counter stimulus, reduce spasm, and create a sensation of cooling or warming depending on which oil is chosen. A classic case of pain management through essential oils is in labor and childbirth. Midwives have used essential oils for years to help laboring women deal with contractions. Research has shown that a lavender bath in early labor improved labor progress and decreased the need for pain medication. Pain relief for the mother directly affects the baby too; a case study published in the International Journal of Aromatherapy showed that use of aroma therapeutic massage during episodes of fetal distress actually normalized fetal heart rates. Chronic and acute pain not associated with labor also can be reduced with lavender as well as clary sage, chamomile, helichrysum, sweet marjoram, sandalwood, and vetiver.
Essential oils are a natural and effective way to help manage stress, boost mood, fight off infection, and deal with pain. When choosing essential oils make sure to research contraindications as they are not always recommended for people with certain conditions.