Training Your Brain to Relax
Aromatherapy is a beautiful way to help relax the mind and body, which encourage a good night’s sleep.
Therapeutic aromatherapy is used in hospitals and hospices, and by therapists – both qualified aromatherapists as well as other therapists.
It is important to consult a qualified aromatherapist in order to get correct, safe blends for yourself of your family – a little knowledge here really can yield problematic (and sometimes even dangerous) results.
Aromatherapy works at the level of the limbic or “old brain” – also called the “reptilian brain” – this is the place that kept us safe from sabre toothed cats and found food to eat or a mate. Think how the scent of fresh coffee or a baking cake immediately evokes a response/memory in us; it is at this level that aromatherapy does most of its’ work.
For example, in experiments conducted with people who suffered with epileptic seizures, it was found that certain essential oils, such as jasmine, ylang ylang, lavender, chamomile and bergamot were beneficial.
Sweet Scents for Sound Sleep
The following recommended oils are given for use in a burner or airstream device, which ensures that no untoward problems come up. It’s also a good idea to deal with reputable essential oil vendor(s) to ensure the quality of the oil as well; I have been using my suppliers since I qualified as an aromatherapist over 20 years ago – I know they provide only the highest quality oils for myself as well as my clients.
Number of drops to use in burner/airstream: 4-6 drops
Note: if you are using the oils for a child under 2 years of age DO NOT USE MORE THAN 1 DROP! Their immune systems are not fully developed and their sense of smell more acute than that of adults. There are also oils which should not be used with children at all — make sure you check with a qualified aromatherapist for advice before using any oils.
The following essential oils have been divided into three categories: anxiety, low mood and nervous tension – but the best guide is your own nose and which oils make you feel relaxed and less stressed – your nose really DOES know!
Essential Oils for Anxiety
Although a mental stimulant, Lemongrass is helpful in reducing anxiety and its’ bright lemony scent is also good for lifting low moods.
This oil is good for people who may be feeling grief – it’s not by accident that the trees are often planted in cemeteries!
A perennial favourite, lavender is good for a number of situations, but is the oil of choice for helping reduce stress and anxiety and encouraging peaceful sleep.
Essential Oils for Low/Changeable Moods
Euphoric in effect, this oil truly uplifts the mood – when I used this oil on a project in a hostel for homeless men, staff and residents smiled, laughed and sang while this oil was in the burner!
The oil should be avoided, however, if there is an issue with estrogen-based cancers or during pregnancy.
Geranium is balancing in its’ effect, which makes it ideal for balancing mood swings, as well as assist in lifting anxiety and depression, including postnatal depression.
As with all citrus oils, Bergamot lifts the mood – and also like nearly all citrus oils – it is phototoxic, i.e. if applied to the skin, exposure to sunlight should be avoided for at least 12 hours after application. While in winter this is less of an issue – it is for this reason that I suggest putting the oil in a burner, which is completely safe.
Essential Oils for Mental Fatigue
For a mind that has become overtired and dull in functioning (and won’t shut off) the following oils can be helpful:
Another citrus and phototoxic oil (see Bergamot above) grapefruit clears the mind and lifts the mood.
Peppermint is as refreshing to the mind as it is to the nose and will give a boost to a tired mind. Caution: Peppermint should be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding or with children under 2 years old; if atrial fibrillation is an issue, peppermint should be avoided.
Eucalyptus not only clears your sinuses, but your head and the energy in a room as well. Eucalyptus is excellent for mental fatigue and poor memory.
In part 3 of the series we will look at herbs and the sleep solutions they provide.