In modern day times we pride ourselves on being busy; always on the run! We undervalue our need to just sit quietly and reflect and recuperate, seeing productivity as the ultimate badge of honour. This comes at a cost. Our bodies are in a perpetual state of low grade stress, throwing important hormones like cortisol out of balance. Hormonal imbalances disrupt our immune systems, our sleep quality, our productivity and our quality of life as a whole.
Develop Relaxing Rituals
It is important and wonderful to incorporate routines and rituals in our daily lives, such as the use of relaxing essential oils that give us permission to stop and reflect, and also assist us in a transition from frantic to calm. It is no surprise that essential oils can affect our moods. These volatile substances, when inhaled, make their way to our brain centres, our primal limbic system, which is responsible for our emotional memories, among other things. The limbic system can trigger changes in our autonomic nervous system, in term affecting our hormone levels throughout the body. Oh the power of a sniff!
Try these Noted Relaxing Essential Oils:
Ylang ylang use, as a traditional relaxing agent, has been supported by one study on humans, showing that it calms the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the “fight or flight” response) and can lower the heart rate and blood pressure (1). Traditionally, ylang ylang has also been considered an aphrodisiac. Nobody is in the mood when they are stressed!
Lavender has long been cherished as a “floral lullaby” of sorts. A 2015, 8 week study demonstrated improved sleep quality in postpartum mothers using lavender. Lavender is one of the safest essential oils and the only one that can be applied to the skin without dilution.(2) A similar relaxing response was demonstrated in a randomized clinical trial on women during childbirth with the use of Geranium essential oil.(3)
Neroli essential oil, a citrus variety derived from the blossom of orange trees, is yet another option to help you unwind and relax. A randomized controlled trial on postmenopausal women demonstrated that Neroli “improved their quality of life related to menopausal symptoms, increased sexual desire, and reduced blood pressure.(4) Other citrus oils known to have relaxing qualities include Orange, Bergamot and Lemon.(5-7)
Don’t forget about Chamomile, an herb traditionally used to calm babies when they are teething, or children with stress-related tummy aches. This herbal tradition has been carried over to essential oils where it can be diffused in the air or diluted and rubbed onto the body.
Using Essential Oils
There are endless ways to use your essential oils; something for everyone! If you like to take a relaxing bath then dilute 10 drops of your desired essential oil into a tablespoon of any carrier oil (this is to avoid skin irritation), and then add this mixture to your bath. Magnesium salts are a lovely adjunct to this. You can also add 10-20 drops to a diffuser and place it by your bed side. I love the NOW® blend “Cheer up Buttercup” which contains a citrus combination of Bergamot Oil, Orange Oil, Lime Oil, Grapefruit Oil and Lemon Oil. You can also make a nice room mist using a NOW spritzer bottle. The vegetable glycerine is added to help the essential oil mix with water. Here is a recipe:
Lavender Room Mist
• 1/2 teaspoon NOW® Rose Hip Seed Oil
• 2 ounces distilled water
• 22 drops NOW® Lavender Essential Oil
• 1 teaspoon NOW® Vegetable Glycerin (this helps increase the solubility of essential oils in water)
Instructions: Combine essential oil with the other oils, then add water. Shake well and lightly mist around the room as desired.
It’s the Holly-Days Again – Diffuser Blend
• 8 drops NOW® Atlas Cedar Essential Oil
• 3 drops NOW® Cypress Essential Oil
• 30 drops NOW® Pine Essential Oil
• 1 drop NOW® Orange Essential Oil
Melt My Heart Mistletoe – Diffuser Blend
• 2 drops NOW® Atlas Cedar Essential Oil
• 3 drops NOW® Pine Essential Oil
• 1 drop NOW® Juniperberry Essential Oil
• 2 drops NOW® Rosemary Essential Oil
• 1 drop NOW® Eucalyptus Essential Oil
• 1 drop NOW® Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Directions: Add recommended numbers of drops of essential oils to your diffuser. Enjoy!
While essential oils have been used safely for centuries, we must use common sense. Be mindful around young children and pets who cannot remove themselves from an enclosed environment where you are diffusing. Never apply essential oils to your skin undiluted (except Lavender). A very safe dilution is 1% which is 6 drops of an essential oil to 30 ml of carrier oil. Always follow the directions on your bottles and/or personal diffusers.
By Dr. Thalia Charney, MA, ND (inactive)