Xanax From Nature: Calming Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter X post in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for the weird title, but I had to come up with something starting with X. Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety and sleep medication. Here in the Netherlands, benzodiazepine medications aren’t covered by insurance, at least not when used for sleep or relaxation. In the spirit of finding alternatives to benzos, today I’m sharing what essential oils can do to promote relaxation. Now I don’t say that essential oils are as effective, but in some cases, they might just be, especially since benzos are highly addictive.

The most well-known oil for tranquility is, of course, lavender. Lavender is thought to help relieve anxiety by affecting the limbic region of the brain, the area that involves emotion. You can either use some lavender essential oil in a diffuser blend or enjoy a lavender bath. To do this, combine a few drops of lavender essential oil with a teaspoon or so of the carrier oil of your choice or an unscented bath gel.

Valerian is up next. I don’t own this oil and haven’t talked about it. Valerian is an herb that has been used since ancient times to promote sleep and relaxation. The herb can be used in herbal teas, but there’s also an essential oil derived from it that can be used in a diffuser blend.

Jasmine is also sometimes used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. It has a beautifully floral scent and, in helping with anxiety, has the advantage that it doesn’t cause sleepiness. Jasmine is usually sold as an absolute and even then can be quite expensive.

Chamomile essential oil, particularly Roman chamomile, is also commonly used for helping reduce anxiety. I do not own this oil, as it is pretty expensive, but would love to in the future. I did at one point use chamomile in herbal tea.

Lastly, frankincense and vetiver essential oil both have calming properties.

There are also oils that have both calming and uplifting properties. For example, I personally didn’t expect patchouli essential oil to help with anxiety, as it is mostly thought of as an uplifting oil. However, of course, oils can do both. I will discuss more uplifting oils later.

Lavender and Lavandin #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter L post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I’ll share about one of my favorite and most commonly used essential oils: lavender. I will also discuss its cousin, lavandin.

True lavender essential oil is distilled from the flower spikes of the plant Lavandula angustifolia. It has a sweet, floral yet slightly herbal scent. Lavandin comes from a hybrid between true lavender and Lavandula latifolia. Lavandin’s scent is more herbaceous and camphoraceous than lavender, but it still retains some of lavender’s floral scent. I like to describe it as “lavender light”. Lavandin was originally introduced to the cosmetic industry in the 1970s because of it being more affordable than lavender. For this reason, some essential oil profiteers adulterate true lavender essential oil with the less expensive lavandin.

Lavender essential oil is very well-known for promoting relaxation and sleep. There are no controlled clinical trials of lavender essential oil in people with anxiety, but some less well-designed studies show that lavender may definitely help lessen anxiety as well as improving one’s mood. A study I found reported that internal use of lavender might work as well as lorazepam in treating anxiety. However, please note that I do not recommend using essential oils internally. Besides, this study was done over a time of six weeks, which is enough time for people taking lorazepam to have developed tolerance.

Lavender, when consumed as a tea (not the essential oil, but the herb itself!), is reported to help with digestive issues such as nausea, intestinal gas, an upset stomach and abdominal swelling.

Lavender and lavandin essential oils blend well with many other oils, including clary sage, citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, ylang ylang and patchouli. I like a blend of eight drops of lavender oil and two drops of geranium essential oil to promote sleep.

Do you like the scent of lavender?

Essential Oils and Fragrances: My Favorite Scents #AtoZChallenge

I am very late posting my letter E post in the #AtoZChallenge, because I’m struggling quite a bit. I won’t go into details about that now. My letter E post is about essential oils and other fragrant products.

Essential oils are oils that are extracted from plants. They are called essential, because without them the plant will die. Essential oils are often believed by natural medicine-minded people to help with a variety of health issues. There are no placebo-controlled, double blind research studies on their effectiveness though. I in fact doubt that’d be possible, as patients would be able to tell by smell whether they’d get the EO or a placebo.

That being said, essential oils do smell good and, even if you don’t believe in their effectiveness for health issues, you can still use them in self-care. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Ylang ylang. This sweet-smelling essential oil is reported to be an aphrodisiac. It is also said to help with relieving anxiety, sadness or tension. It can be used as a relaxing oil. I just love the smell of this oil!

2. Sweet orange. This oil is reported to be good for lifting your mood. It is my favorite of the citrus essential oils.

3. Eucalyptus. I don’t know what type of eucalyptus EO I own, as I bought it at a soaping supplies store that didn’t specialize in aromatherapy. There are several commonly-used eucalyptus varieties, such as eucalyptus globulus and eucalyptus radiata. I particularly like to smell eucalyptus when I’m having a cold or congested sinuses.

4. Peppermint. This is another oil that helps when I’m having a cold. I bought it at the same soaping supplies vendor I bought the eucalyptus EO at. They recommended peppermint oil should not be used in baths, as it is very strong.

5. Lavender. Though I don’t particularly care for strong lavender scents, I like to diffuse a little lavender EO when I can’t sleep. I don’t know whether it works, but it does help.

Besides essential oils, other products that have strong scents can be used in self-care too. For example, when I still lived with my husband, I would often burn a wax melt. These are a relatively safe alternative to scented candles. That is, the melting wax doesn’t get very hot, but it still makes a mess at times and you don’t want to spill it all over your hands. It may not leave burn marks, but it’s definitely uncomfortable.

Wax melts come in a ton of different scents. I particularly liked the bakery smells, though my husband found most way too strong.

What are your favorite scents?