Aromatherapy is a holistic treatment method that has been used for emotional and physical ailments since ancient times. Essential oils derived from plants are either inhaled or absorbed through the skin to promote mental wellbeing and ease physical discomfort. Today, this method is not always recognized as a valid form of treatment in the medical community, but this is mostly due to a lack of research. Research on the effectiveness of essential oils is limited and problematic, in part because study participants can identify different oils by smell and therefore the results can’t be randomized or unbiased. Several studies have suggested that while no single essential oil has been proven to effectively treat anxiety or depression on its own, many oils have had success in minimizing certain symptoms of mental illness. Success rates for essential oil therapy vary from person to person, but using oils in conjunction with professional mental health treatment might improve wellbeing.
Check out our list of specific essential oils that have been known to improve mental health for thousands of years:
Lavender essential oil is one of the most commonly used in aromatherapy and has many purported benefits. Lavender has a soft, pleasant smell that helps create a sense of calm. A study conducted in dental offices found that patients waiting anxiously for procedures felt more at ease when lavender was diffused in the room. Women in labor are often encouraged to use lavender essential oil by doulas and midwives to help ease nervousness and anxiety. Additionally, one study found that diffusing lavender after giving birth may help ease symptoms of depression associated with hormonal fluctuation. Lavender is also commonly used for sleep issues and can act as a sedative. One study found that when added to a healthy bedtime routine, participants who inhaled lavender reported better quality sleep and more energy during the day.
Cedarwood essential oil has been found to have stress-relieving properties, especially for those who experience high stress at work or school. Inhaling cedarwood at work was shown in one study to improve performance and promote focus. A study conducted on rats that have yet to enter into human trials confirmed that cedarwood may be useful in treating symptoms of depression. There are several types of cedarwood oils, all of which may carry different levels of effectiveness depending on the person.
Frankincense has been said to help lift mood and balance hormones, especially in women. One study which used frankincense alongside other oils known to promote relaxation found that the combination was effective in alleviating depression for terminally ill patients, and may have helped with pain management as well. Another study conducted on mice found that frankincense stimulates the portion of the brain that regulates emotions, in addition to activating a protein that plays a role in the perception of warmth. These effects together can create a sense of comfort and peace.
Chamomile is often used to treat many physical symptoms that are associated with inflammation. Chamomile acts as an anti-inflammatory and can restore balance to aggravated bodily systems. Additionally, chamomile has been shown to ward off symptoms of depression and help increase motivation. Chamomile is especially recommended when anxiety and depression are causing digestive issues, as it may help promote relaxation while also alleviating inflammation in the gut.
Grapefruit essential oil has an uplifting and invigorating effect and may help you feel more energized. It is also commonly recommended to help fight cravings when in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. People in early sobriety often battle a wide range of mental health issues and withdrawal symptoms that may last for weeks or months. Essential oil therapy is a holistic method that may be added to an addiction treatment program to help increase the chances of success and promote lasting wellness.
Use with Caution
There are certain risks to take into consideration before beginning an aromatherapy practice. Some people find they have allergies or adverse reactions to certain oils, so it is important to proceed with caution when being exposed to a new type of oil. There is also a wide range of quality available when it comes to essential oils, and it is important to do your research and purchase only therapy-grade oils for home use. Some oils that are considered safe for most people can have negative effects on pets, children, and pregnant women. When diffusing oils into the air in your home or office, it is best to dilute the oil with water as much as possible while still being able to smell the fragrance. Additionally, some essential oils have adverse interactions with certain prescription medications, so it is important to consult your doctor before use. While essential oils can have amazing benefits for many individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness, they are not a replacement for professional care. Many quality treatment programs now incorporate a holistic wellness plan into recovery, allowing you the freedom to find what works best for you.