Anxiety,  Depression,  Mental Illness

Aromatherapy (and Anxiety) Explained in 3 Great Steps

Shown is a field of lavender that stretches out into the horizon. This image is meant to invoke a sense of ease and relief from anxiety. As well as complimenting the idea of aromatherapy.

A few days ago I was inspired by a story I heard about an old Japanese couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroki. In the later parts of Mrs. Kuroki’s life, she gradually became blind as a side-effect of her diabetes. Due to her blindness Mrs. Kuroki became depressed, something that Mr. Kuroki quickly noticed. Mr. Kuroki worked to solve this problem by planting thousands of flowers on their property, so she could enjoy one of her remaining senses. This worked out well for both of them, after the flowers bloomed Mrs. Kuroki couldn’t stop smiling, which was all her husband wanted. 

This reminded me of how helpful aromatherapy can really be. I’ll go over potential benefits and how aromatherapy actually works. I’ll be reserved when discussing aromatherapy’s undocumented benefits. This is because misinformation seems to be very common around this topic. So I’ll be using trusted sources like that of John Hopkins medicine.

So here is aromatherapy explained in 3 steps

1. What is Aromatherapy?

Put simply, aromatherapy is a type of therapy used to help alleviate minor mental and physical problems through smell and physical contact. It’s mostly associated with stress-relief and general relaxation. Flowers like lavender are often used as is or compounded into a more potent oil form, also called essential oils. More often than not flowers and oils are used as supplements to relaxing environments, like in a bath or during a massage.

2. What can aromatherapy potentially help with and how does it work?

While it isn’t entirely proven, there have been studies and accounts which state that aromatherapy can help alleviate anxiety and some forms of chronic pain. One John Hopkins article notes that scents from essential oils end up reaching the Amygdala, the part of your brain which manages your emotions. It’s more than fair to assume that aromatherapy can help with anxiety to some degree, given it’s connection with the limbic system. (More on this in number 3)

You could also compare this to studies that link certain smells with nostalgia as seen here from an article by NBC. Everyone enjoys certain scents, so it’s not out of the box at all to assume it can be relaxing.

3. Is aromatherapy really proven helpful?

This question is discussed in-depth in one John Hopkins article seen here. While this may seem like an obvious answer, it’s not exactly black and white. While they don’t conclusively call aromatherapy a viable treatment, they do note some studies that say it can help with minor issues. While some people in the studies they cited saw no alleviation of symptoms, others apparently saw a fair degree of relief. Whether this be the relaxing of muscles or mind, there seems to be a connection. 

With all this being said, I would argue that yes, aromatherapy can be useful for things like anxiety, depression, or minor physical pain. While I’m not a doctor, I believe there is enough evidence to prove it can be helpful for some people. 

It’s also important to note that there are many outlandish claims floating around which claim essential oil can cure a number of diseases like cancer. As one could guess, there is no evidence for claims like these. If you are ever unsure about the effectiveness of things like essential oils, I recommend looking into studies from reliable sources.

As always I hope that anyone who’s reading this is doing well. I know things are rough for a lot of people, in more ways than one. Try your best to stick through all this.

If anyone reading has a question they might want to ask me regarding how I’ve improved my mental wellness or anything else, feel free to email me.



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