Beat the stress with aromatherapy
By Kishani Gunawardena
Stress is defined as any influence which disturbs the normal balance of mental or physical health. Symptoms of stress include anxiety, depression, palpitations, headaches/ migraines, fear, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, physical exhaustion, muscular problems etc.

Aromatherapy is one of the best treatments for helping stress-related health disorders, and although the benefits of essential oils have been known for centuries, it is only recently that their full potential is beginning to be realized.

Aromatherapy is the controlled use of natural aromatic oils from plants to achieve harmony and balance in the human body and mind. The intention is to investigate and prove a connection.

With a stress situation it is important to study the person's lifestyle. A routine health check should be undertaken, and time should be devoted to exercise, relaxation, socialization and diet.

Healing powers
Essential oils are claimed to have a variety of different effects on the body. Euphoric odours such as jasmine, rose and clary sage stimulate the thalamus to secrete neurochemicals. These act as natural pain killers together with inducing feelings of euphoria.

Aphrodisiac odours like ylang ylang and patchouli stimulate the pituitary gland which then secretes endorphins, another type of natural pain killer.

Sedative odours such as lavender, chamomile and sweet marjoram stimulate the release of serotonin, a sedative neurochemical.

Variant application
The three best methods of using aromatherapy to help stress-related health disorders are inhalation, baths and massage. Inhalation is a fast and effective way of obtaining benefits from essential oils. A few drops breathed deeply from a tissue are sufficient. In a high stress situation essential oils of neroli and lavender will quickly relieve tension. Relaxing in a warm aromatherapy bath is particularly beneficial in cases of anxiety, insomnia, menstrual problems and headaches. The bath should be filled with sufficient hot water and then six to eight drops of essential oils added and swirled around. At least ten minutes should be allowed in the bath so that the oils can penetrate the skin.

The most beneficial treatment for stress is to have regular aromatherapy massages by a professional therapist. For stress, aromatherapy massage is far superior to other massage systems as it involves smell as well as touch. The essential oils relieve mental tensions whilst the massage helps physical tensions. Once mental tension is relieved, sleep improves and physical tension is alleviated; energy increases and the person becomes more relaxed and alert. These improvements are often noticeable after just one treatment.

One of the most common problems of stress are headaches for which a few drops of lavender can be rubbed on the temples, forehead or back of the neck. This oil can be mixed with peppermint, a stimulant for an uplifting as well as a calming effect. Rosemary is also ideal for clearing the head, particularly after a period of mental effort.

To sleep or not to sleep
Insomnia seems to be a very common problem. There are numerous underlying causes for insomnia, such as illness, bereavement, financial and emotional problems. All these are stressful which in turn can bring about insomnia. Essential oils which have a profound effect on the mind and emotions are lavender, Roman chamomile and ylang ylang. They all soothe, balance and relieve anxiety. Benzoin helps remove external worries while bergamot uplifts and helps depression. Clary sage is an extremely effective muscle relaxant although it should not be used with alcohol as it may induce nightmares. Juniper berry and cedarwood are very comforting and combinations of the above oils can be used in the bath prior to going to bed.

The ideal cure for insomnia is aromatherapy massage. Often one session is sufficient, but as the benefits of massage are accumulative, regular treatments are recommended.

Whilst some people cannot go to sleep, others find it difficult to stay awake. Fatigue can also be a sign of stress or over-activity and there are several stimulating oils which will help. A massage using a blend of basil, geranium, rosemary and pine will ease fatigue.

Both the body and essential oils consists of complex molecular structures. When these interact either by inhalation or application, the mood can be affected, thus allowing rational thought. Attitude, exercise, good nutrition and breathing techniques combined with the beautiful smells and gentle application of aromatherapy can help in all stress related health disorders.

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