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    Aromatherapy for Stress Management

    aromatherapy (1)One of the most enjoyable ways to beat stress is to use traditional essential oils, which have a very long history of use for their healing qualities. Not only are essential oils natural and with some exceptions, free of side effects – those that are used for stress relief are beautiful scents that please the body, mind and spirit.

    Essential oils can be used in a number of ways that are both simple and easy to set up.  A very popular method is to use a diffuser that will gently allow the scent of the essential oil to permeate the room. Another method is to add a few drops of essential oil to carrier oil and use as a moisturizer or massage oil.  A third method is to add essential oils to a hot bath for a therapeutic soak.

    It is a good idea to get a good reference book on aromatherapy that will tell you how to use essential oils, what qualities each one has, and any contraindications that might apply to each essential oil. Two of my favorite reference books on aromatherapy are The Aromatherapy Book by Jeanne Rose, and The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy by Chrissie Wildwood.

    Always avoid using essential oils when there is fever or any infectious illness, or where there are skin conditions such as rashes, skin ulcers, boils, swellings, or at the location of any bruises, sprains, torn ligaments or muscles, broken bones or burns, as the actions of the essential oils may aggravate the condition.

    Because essential oils are concentrated plant extracts, generally they are not applied undiluted directly on the skin, and with rare exceptions are not taken internally. For therapeutic purposes, both the carrier oil and the essential oils should be cold-pressed rather than chemically extracted or heat processed, which will destroy the healing nutrients. Organic is always preferable when available.

    How to find essential oils that are pure, natural and therefore  of therapeutic quality?  Those companies that are committed to quality will state their testing methods and provide validation when requested. Often the website will provide the information that you need; the packaging should give you the contact information where you can find out more about the product..

    Because many products in the market today are mixed with chemical substances, synthetic scents or diluted with commercial-grade oils, the essential oils you use should be from a company that uses Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry to test their ingredients for purity. Synthetic oils generally have no therapeutic value, as they are isomers having a different shaped molecule than those that are pure plant extracts. Although the chemical formula may be the same, different isomers will often have very different actions in the body. It is important to research those companies that are dedicated to quality. Fifteen years ago I took an aromatherapy workshop from an intensive care nurse and aromatherapy instructor; she told us that at that time there were only five companies in the United States that her hospital trusted to provide pure therapeutic essential oils. Fortunately there are now more companies that are dedicated to producing pure and natural essential oils.

    When selecting products for therapeutic use, it is important to be aware that in the U.S., a product may claim on its label that it is “natural” as long as the constituents can also be found in nature, even though the material in the product may have been compounded in a chemical lab.  The label may also lay claim to being “pure” even when there is no more than five percent of the “pure” item in the product. This kind of labeling is currently legal and permitted in the U.S.

    For the relief of stress, most essential oils are helpful, especially the citrus essences, cedarwood, roman chamomile, German chamomile, clary sage, cypress, frankincense, geranium, lavender, juniper berry, patchouli, peppermint, pine, rose otto, rosemary, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang. For mental fatigue, basil, eucalyptus, and lemon are especially useful in that hey help to clear the mind. Bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, frankincense, juniper berry, lavender, melissa (true), neroli, rose otto, and ylang-ylang are also helpful for anxiety.

    To use essential oils in a diffuser, you will need to purchase a good essential oil diffuser. To make a blend to begin with, select two or three essential oils that you like, using 5 or 6 drops of the primary oil and one or two drops each of the other two.  Lavender is a classic for stress relief; five drops of lavender combined with two drops of bergamot and a drop of clary sage. Another wonderful scent for stress and hormonal balance is clary sage oil; use six drops of the clary sage, two drops of lavender and a drop of heavenly scented ylang-ylang oil.

    For body oil, use a carrier oil such as almond or olive oil for dry skin, or for a very light oil for oily skin, use grape seed oil. Jojoba A friend of mine who is a massage therapist who specializes in people with immune disorders likes to use extra virgin olive oil; according to him this oil is least likely to cause a reaction.

    To make a body oil blend, you can use the same blend as with the diffuser; simply put those essential oils, using the same amounts, in two ounces of a carrier oil.  You can also use twenty five drops of a single essential oil or a blend of your choice; to begin with I recommend using up to three oils for a blend.

    One of the truly reliable remedies for stress and tension is a hot bath with two cups of Epsom salts and a blend of essential oils – five to ten drops in the tub will relax you, and if you’ve been having trouble getting to sleep, this little remedy should do the trick.

    I would love to hear about your favorite aromatherapy for stress management. Have you found essential oils to be helpful for stress and anxiety?  What about your experience may be help and encouragement for others? Please write in and share your experience with others in the Comments section below.

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