In recent years there has been a surge in interest over essential oils. The three main methods of use are inhalation, topical application, and ingestion. Inhaling can be performed by smelling the oil directly from the bottle or mixing a few drops with distilled water in an appropriate diffuser. Applying oils to the skin must first be mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and a patch test should first be done. Lastly, ingesting oils is not generally recommended but can be done in tiny amounts by either mixing with food or in a capsule. Make sure that the oil is pure, high quality, and from a trusted company. In addition, be aware that there are oils out there that are simply *scented* like a plant. Be sure to purchase actual essential oils that are extracted from the plants, and not an oil that only smells like one.
As there are countless oils that one can buy for a variety of health benefits, here are a few that could have a positive impact on your mental well-being and health:
Lavender– This oil has been found in studies to decrease low anxiety by inducing relaxation. It also has sedative, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. If you like the smell of lavender, a few drops on your pillow or into a diffuser near your bed may help your sleep. Moreover, one study found positive results accompanied with good sleep hygiene may be effective in treating Alzheimer’s. Lavender also has antiseptic and soothing properties and can be used by putting a few drops into a bath as a topical treatment in addition to increasing relaxation.
Chamomile– Similar to lavender, this oil has been found to promote sleep and lower anxiety and can be used much the same way. In fact, I read an interesting study that suggests this oil may decrease depressive symptoms in mothers post child birth. Of course, this needs to be studied more but nevertheless we know that chamomile helps to reduce stress. It is important to be aware that there are two main types of chamomile (i.e., German and Roman). The main difference to know is that German chamomile is more antibacterial and anti-inflammatory whereas Roman chamomile is more antifungal in nature.
Peppermint– I think of this oil as a natural stimulant. Researchers have found it to increase alertness and mental activity as well as reduce mental fatigue and burnout. Also, it can improve concentration and memory. Peppermint oil has also been used to treat headaches, sooth nausea, and aid in digestion. Overall, there is a refreshing quality to this oil.
Lemon– Lemons and its oil are generally associated with a clean and zestful scent. It can be a powerful astringent, antiseptic, and antibacterial agent. In addition, the oil can aid in skin repair by diminishing the appearance of wrinkles, toning, and promote circulation. Inhalation of lemon oil has antidepressant properties and can help alleviate stress. Some studies have shown a positive correlation in increasing memory function.
Basil– This oil is mostly used for treatment of colds, coughs, and muscle aches as it can be antibacterial, antiviral, and is considered an expectorant. Researchers have found that basil oil has antidepressant properties and has a positive correlation with reducing mental fatigue. Although this oil can be used on its own, I suggest using it sparingly within a blend as it can dominate in scent.
Bergamot– This perhaps lesser known oil comes from the peel of a citrus like fruit. Studies have found it to have an anxiolytic effect on people in stressful environments. In aromatherapy, it is used to reduce stress, enhance mood, promote circulation, and help to alleviate pain. This is a very interesting oil because with its bright smell, bergamot oil helps to fight fatigue and depressive symptoms while also exhibiting sedative properties to calm and sooth during bedtime. I have also recently learned that bergamot is what gives earl grey tea (my favorite tea) its distinctive flavor. In fact, while researching for this blog, I came across many recipes to make your own earl grey tea with the oil.
Clary Sage– As a close cousin to the regular sage plant we all know about, clary sage holds many antidepressant properties. Studies have found it to lower cortisol and increase dopamine thus alleviating stress by decreasing depressive symptoms. It can produce a calming effect that can encourage restful sleep and its anti-inflammatory properties also help to increase memory function and attentiveness.
As mentioned earlier, these are but a few of the many oils you can find to benefit your needs. Please be sure to speak with your doctor before introducing oils into a treatment of any kind. Also, doing some extensive reading of your own will properly prepare you to enter the ever-vast world of essential oils, especially if you want to use them for mental health purposes. That being said, have fun and enjoy!
By: Kathryn Chambers
Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc.