Aromatherapy - Can it boost your mood?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from plants for medical or therapeutic purposes. It can be used to ease aches, pains and injuries but also to restore physical and emotional well-being and reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Aromatherapy is a form of complementary therapy which has become more popular in recent years, but can it be used to boost your mood?
One study was carried out on cancer patients attending a specialist unit. 46 patients received either conventional daycare or daycare plus a weekly aromatherapy massage. At the end of the study, no significant difference was seen in either mood or quality of life between both groups (1).
Another study, carried on very young infants, revealed that use of lavender bath oil led to reduced stress levels in new mums – babies who were bathed in lavender oil also cried less and enjoyed a longer, deeper sleep afterwards. Levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by our bodies when we are stressed, was found to have significantly decreased in both mums and babies (2). Other studies have been carried out on the anti-stress benefits of lavender, rose and lemon essential oils. A study by Japanese scientists on mice revealed that lemon oil caused a significant reduction in stress levels when mice carried out a range of behavioural tasks. (3).
Essential oils have anti--viral and anti-bacterial properties, so using them could boost your immune system and improve your health which in turn boosts your mood - when when our bodies are healthy, we feel good!
Using essential oils for a mood boost
There are a range of essential oils available to choose from, all varying in price and offering their own therapeutic benefits. Here are some of the most popular essential oils, and the benefits they can provide for your mental health and your mood:
Lavender is one the most popular essential oils; it's easy to find in supermarkets and shops such as Boots or Superdrug. This oil has calming properties and can help emotional stress; it can be used to treat headaches and migraines or to relieve nervous tension, anxiety and depression. Lavender can also help you to get a good night's sleep, which will boost your mood and leave you feeling refreshed!
Chamomile is known as a calming agent and for hundreds of years, people have used chamomile tea as a way to drift naturally off to sleep. Chamomile can also be used as a mild antidepressant to lift your mood when the blues strike.
Rosemary oil has stimulating properties which can help fight mental fatigue and physical exhaustion – as an added bonus, it can also improve your memory! Rosemary is excellent to use as a morning pick-me-up, before a study session or after a run – blended with a carrier oil, it can be used in a massage to relieve muscular aches and pains.
Peppermint oil is said to boost your energy levels so it's the ideal choice if you find yourself feeling tired all the time. Peppermint can also aid digestion – peppermint tea is a popular choice for digestive complaints and the oil can be used to promote concentration and clear thinking; a few drops of peppermint on a tissue could be helpful when studying or preparing for an important meeting.
Jasmine is one the most expensive essential oils, as it's so difficult to extract. It can be used to ease depression and reduce stress and tension. Jasmine is repeatedly an uplifting essential oil, so it can help you to feel more optimistic, energetic and confident. If you're suffering from SAD or a general lack of confidence, Jasmine is a great essential oil to try.
This floral oil can reduce stress and promote feelings of calm – it's a great way to unwind after a busy day at work. Try adding a few drops to a hot bath, switch off your smartphone, lay back and relax!
How do essential oils affect our brains?
When we breathe in an essential oil's aroma, the molecules are carried through the nose, to bind with olfactory receptor neurons. Nerve impulses are sent to the olfactory bulb and to the brain's limbic system, which is responsible for regulation and emotion. The limbic system then responds by releasing neurochemicals which the nervous system distributes throughout the body, boosting mood and well-being.
Using essential oils at home
Whilst you could book an aromatherapy massage, where essential oils are blended in a carrier oil and applied directly to your skin, there are a number of ways you can use essential oils of for a physical and mental boost. Add a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser – you find diffusers which use a candle or plug-in varieties. You'll also find candles made with essential oils or toiletries such as shower gel or bath foam with natural essential oils. Adding a few drops of essential oil to a warm bath can help you to relax or give you a mental boost, whilst a few drops on a pillow or tissue can also have the desired effect.
There are those who who say that essential oils have a range of benefits for body and mind, and there are studies out there to support these claims. However, there are also studies which show that essential oils and aromatherapy do not offer these physical and mental benefits. The jury is out as to the effects that aromatherapy can have on mood, but why not decide for yourself?
Using aromatherapy oils in massage, to ease aches and pains, boost your mood and uplift you, is a great experience. Using them around your home not only creates a lovely fragrance, but can also help to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety – we all need a little help staying positive and optimistic at this time of year. If you're about to start a new healthy eating or training plan, essential oils could be used to give you the motivation and focus that you need, or help you to stay positive when you feel like giving into another cheat day. We recommend starting off with some of the most popular oils such as lavender, rosemary and lemon– one for relaxation, one for focus and mental clarity, and one for positivity and energy!
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