Fragrant healing - Essential oils for anxiety and immunity

Anxiety is epidemic in our society.  Symptoms include feelings of panic and fear that reaches the point where it interferes with everyday life.  We build up imaginary scenarios in our minds then get upset about them.  As panic sets in we can feel tight in our chests, short of breath, have palpitations and feel dizzy.  Long term this can lead to endocrine imbalances which cause nausea, low immunity (the last thing you want at this time of year), fatigue and muscle tension leading to pain in the body.  It is telling that use of pain killers has increased dramatically over the last decade.    

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years.  They are generally safe, easily excreted by the body and do not leave toxins in the body.  Even so if you have any health issues or are pregnant please consult your doctor before using.  Also, if you do suffer from anxiety please see your doctor.

So how exactly can essential oils calm anxiety?  Smelling certain essential oils affects the limbic system of the brain which controls emotions such as fear in a positive way so that fear, which underlies anxiety is reduced.  The limbic system affects breathing which can become quick and shallow when anxious.  When using essential oils breathing can, in this way, be restored to its normal pattern. Affecting the limbic system in a positive way can also slow down the release of hormones from the adrenal glands such as cortisol which cause anxiety. This in turn also helps boost the immune system since cortisol dampens down the immune response.  

My favourite essential oil for anxiety is lavender.  It is especially good if anxious thoughts keep you awake at night - a few drops on your pillow will calm and relax you helping you to have a restful sleep.  Lavender is also good if you are prone to panic attacks.  Keep some with you and if you feel yourself getting anxious dab a little on your wrist or a cotton pad and inhale - I always dab some on before visiting the dentist!  Note that lavender is the only essential oil that can be safely used undiluted on your skin - if you use other essential oils on your skin I would recommend you use 10 drops of essential oil in around 5ml (a teaspoon) of an oil such as almond oil. Alternatively you can add a few drops of lavender to your bath.  This relaxes your muscles which in turn relaxes your mind.  

Other essential oils that can help with anxiety include geranium, sandalwood, German chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot.   

As well as using them in the ways already described you could use them in a diffuser or massage yourself with them diluted in a carrier oil such as sesame or almond oil .. A massage using warm oils is ideal before you take your morning bath.  Use long strokes for your arms and legs, circular movements fr your joints.  Massage your tummy in a circular motion - up the right side, down the left. If you can, leave the oils to soak in for 10 minutes before taking a bath (care you do not slip). 
PLEASE NOTE - do not self-massage if you are pregnant, menstruating or have any medical problems (check with your doctor). If you have skin allergies please do a skin patch test using diluted essential oil 24 hours before using.

On the yoga blog I have just started a new series to help with anxiety.  Please 'Yoga for anxiety- An introduction and yoga video'-see

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