For quick relief from anxiety, open a bottle of lavender essential oil. Take a deep breath. Release. Take a lavender foot bath, burn a scented candle or spritz the air with orange aromatherapy.
Do you feel a little better? Is aromatherapy pseudo-science that just smells good? Maybe not.
A study of 141 pregnant women found that rubbing or soaking feet with lavender cream significantly reduced anxiety, stress and depression. Another study of 200 dental patients found that orange or lavender aromatherapy helped them relax before treatment. Lavender baths lower cortisol levels in infants. Even antidepressants work better when combined with lavender therapy.
Why does aromatherapy, particularly lavender, appear to have a calming effect? Some research suggests that lavender reaches odor-sensitive neurons in the nose that send signals to the parts of the brain related to wakefulness and awareness. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, scientists found that sniffing linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, was kind of like taking a Valium. It worked on the same parts of a mouse’s brain, but without all the dizzying side effects. And it didn’t target parts of the brain directly from the bloodstream, as was thought. Relief from anxiety could be triggered just by inhaling through a healthy nose.
It’s only a temporary reprieve, but it just might help get you a situation where you feel anxious or stressed.