Science Supports Essential Oils for Sleep, Anxiety, Antibacterial Action and More
Here are two very interesting scientific research reviews published this year, which conclude essential oils to be truly supportive of our health. In producing these papers, the authors have examined a significant number of previously-published peer-reviewed studies to draw these conclusions: 1) Essential oils can help us sleep better, and 2) Inhaling their aromas can reduce anxiety and reduce nausea, can be effective antibacterial agents, and go on to suggest even greater positive health potentials.
(Should you want to try these yourself, you'll find many of these oils on sale now, or available in sampler kits...be sure to check out our Sales & Specials page!)
Study #1: Getting Better Sleep with Essential Oils
In the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers published 'A Systematic Review of the Effect of Inhaled Essential oils on Sleep'(1), noting the following results and conclusions:
"The search (of published research) yielded 15 quantitative studies, including 11 randomized controlled trials that examined hypnotic effects of inhalation of essential oils. A majority of the study findings suggested a positive effect of essential oils on sleep. Lavender was the most frequently studied essential oil. No adverse events were reported."
The review concluded: "Inhalation of essential oils may be considered for people with mild sleep disturbances."
Lavender is noted in the research review as THE most popular essential oil for sleep support. It's also important to remember that other oils are also commonly recommended for sleep.
Which essential oil is best for you or your family and friends to aid sleep?
While Lavender is the most widely researched essential oil, for best results, it's important to find the oil that the user finds aids in a better night's sleep AND they enjoy the aroma of. Yes, one should really like lying down to the scent that's to help them sleep better!
It's also important to start a 'sleep support protocol' by using only as much essential oil as you need to get a 'hint' of the aroma. Often, users find that more than this can actually be stimulating, rather than calming. This means only a drop or two of the oil on your bedspread - or 'under' the pillowcase (not right where your nose will be).
Study #2: Reducing Anxiety, Nausea, Pain, and Essential Oils' Anti-Microbial Action
A second major review of the scientific research supporting essential oils' use as support alongside western medicine was published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
In the paper, 'Essential Oils for Complementary Treatment of Surgical Patients: State of the Art'(2), researchers compiled data supporting essential oils' use in clinical settings for: Pre-operative anxiety, pain, postoperative nausea and vomiting, disinfection (anti-microbial activity), as well as 'miscellanea' (noting a wide variety of therapeutic potentials).
Essential Oils and Anxiety:
Lavender was the most widely (and positively) studied essential oil, shown to reduce the anxiety of patients about to undergo many varied medical treatments. Further, the physiological effects of Lavender were elucidated: Lavender's major constituent, Linalool, was found to affect binding of GABA receptors, thereby lessening anxiety.
Interestingly, Sweet Orange essential oil, which contains almost no Linalool, was also found to have anti-anxiety properties. Other essential oils noted for their calming actions were Rose Otto, Neroli and Chamomile.
Rose was found to reduce markers of stress without even being inhaled, but rather topically applied. A blend of Lavender, Chamomile and Neroli, in a ratio of 12:4:1 reduced anxiety, increased and aided sleep, and stabilized blood pressure in patients actually undergoing a medical procedure.
Essential Oil Inhalation and the Perception of Pain
The data noting the inhalation of essential oils in reducing the perception of pain was mixed. The investigators found research where essential oils reduced the perception of pain, and reduce the amount of pain medication needed in some cases. Whereas in others, depending on the oil used, the data was inconclusive.
Note, here, that the investigation was only looked at the aroma-therapeutic activity of essential oils...whether their scent changed the perception of pain of the patient. While not included in the research, we have received many anecdotal reports of Helichrysum italicum essential oil reducing local pain upon topical application...massaged on the location of back pain, sports injuries and the like. Helichrysum is in-fact noted in the research's 'miscellanea' as an anti-spasmodic.
Essential Oils Reducing Nausea and Vomiting
Inhalation of essential oils of Peppermint, Spearmint, and Ginger were found to conclusively reduce the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting (primarily a result of anesthesia). These oils have an extensive historic use for this particular purpose. Note that Spearmint is considered the most gentle of these oils and that Mandarin is also noted by aromatherapists to reduce symptoms of tummy troubles for children, also with an excellent safety profile.
Essential Oils Anti-Bacterial Action
Investigators reviewed data regarding the use of essential oils as antibacterial washes and antibacterial support. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) was noted to be effective on several strains of Staphylococcus aureus isolated from wounds (even surgical wounds), and on methicillin-resistant and -sensitive bacteria.
A great many essential oils were noted for their anti-bacterial activity; Tea Tree received the most attention solely due to its popularity in research. Thyme essential oil was noted as effective as well, along with Patchouli, Geranium, and Lavenders. Oregano was mentioned, but no conclusions were drawn because it had not been used on patients.
Through our own research and understanding, 'Benchmark' Thyme essential oil deserves particular note in this use of essential oils. While no en-vivo research has been done, the essential oil was developed by Maggie Tisserand through growing many, many strains of Thymus zygis, and blending these to produce an essential oil not only high in terpinen-4-ol (considered by some scientists as the most active anti-bacterial constituent of Tea Tree), but also high in Thymol - yet considered a very safe variety of Thyme.
The authors go on to note other important therapeutic potentials, including the anti-mutagenic properties of Oregano (preventing DNA mutations), and the anti-inflammatory action of Rose Geranium, and the anti-spasmodic properties of Helichrysum italicum. Further, they state: "Other promising therapeutic applications have been proposed...but clinical validation is not ready at the moment".
WHEW! Well, there you have it! It's great to see the scientific community embracing essential oils as 'complementary' therapeutics ~ suggesting that doctors should strongly consider their use alongside conventional therapies.
There is in-fact TONS of research supporting the therapeutic potential of essential oils in a wide variety of health applications beyond the ones noted here. For more, visit www.pubmed.gov and search 'essential oil' and '(the health condition of your choice)', or narrow your search by naming any particular essential oil...you'll find pages of in-depth data for your enjoyment.*
1. Lillehei AS, Halcon LL. A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jun;20(6):441-51.
2. Stea S, Beraudi A, De Pasquale D. Essential oils for complementary treatment of surgical patients: state of the art. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:726341.