‘Stress’ is not an illness as such but a ‘multi-dimensional syndrome’ which can cause a wide range of physical ailments and psychological problems ranging from high blood-pressure, headaches or digestive complaints to feelings of constant tiredness, depression or nervous anxiety. Stress also weakens the immune system and, in the long term, makes an individual more susceptible to all kinds of disease.
Recent research indicates that stress is most probably a causative factor or a trigger for many of the so-called ‘civilization’ diseases such as cancer, ME, stroke, and AIDS. Material proof of the widespread sense of ‘dis-ease’ experienced today is shown by the high consumption of tranquillizers and stimulants, although it is well known that addiction, toxicosis and other side-effects can be caused by these drugs if they are taken regularly.
Any treatment which can help to de-stress or revitalize the organism without producing detrimental side-effects is, therefore, of great value.
The possibility of applying new therapies to these widespread psychoneurosis is therefore of considerable importance essential oils that are employed in aromatherapy, in the appropriate doses, are harmless to the organism and do not cause troubles like those produced by the ordinary psychological drugs. Very conclusive experiments in this direction have been carried out in various clinics for nervous diseases, on patients affected by hysteria or psychic depression.
Stress-related problems are an area in which aromatherapy enjoys a great deal of success, due to the powerful combination of touch and smell. During a massage, the essential oils themselves also interact with and de-stress the body in two ways: through inhalation (primarily psychological effects) and through dermal absorption (primarily physiological effects). By easing the problem at its source, rather than by treating the individual symptoms, aromatherapy is especially valuable for those who suffer from a number of different responses to stress simultaneously. In the words of Dr Ann Coxon:
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For instance, a person who has a difficult ongoing life situation, who has high blood-pressure which needs one set of tablets, indigestion requiring another set of tablets, back pain that would actually be contra-indicated in view of the indigestion, and so on. One could go on with that patient forever. And they invariably end up with 15 pots of tablets, total confusion and a sense of dependency on the doctors. Obviously, the approach of holistic treatment is to help enable people to manage their primary life situation, and the ability of aromatherapy to get at the knot, at the stress reaction itself within the body without using yet more pharmacological treatment is terribly important.
Lavender is possibly the most useful oil employed in this context because of its regulating effect on the nervous functions and its versatile nature. Indeed, lavender is indicated for all the symptoms mentioned above, for it reduces blood-pressure (especially in combination with massage), eases back pain, soothes indigestion and reduces any emotional anxiety. It is in such cases that lavender really comes into its own!
Use lavender in baths, vaporizers, massage, perfumes, etc. for its de-stressing effects.
For specific symptoms, see Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue, High Blood-pressure, Insomnia, Mood Swings/Hysteria, Palpitations