I have made a commitment this season to provide you with information, tips, and tools to navigate through the holidays with more ease and cheer. This includes the ability to calmly navigate the extra obligations, financial stress, and social gatherings at a time of year when many are feeling more strained and on edge.
- The brain as the central hub for the processing of stress
- How stress impacts the whole body and is accompanied by a wide-range of symptoms
- The concept of neuroplasticity that makes habitual responses hard to break
- The importance of relationships for health and how rigid beliefs around fitness and diet can damage these connections and create negative social, emotional, and physical outcomes
- How essential oils support a stressed-out brain and body and assist with breaking unhealthy behavioral patterns
You can get more of a summary and links to the references here.
Next, I will highlight more of the science behind essential oils can stop stress in its tracks and turn grumpiness into gratitude. Then, I will begin reviewing the first of several specific essential oils that I’ve found particularly helpful in addressing the dis-ease that can pop up more frequently with holiday demands.
The Powerful Aromatic Medicine of Stress Relieving Essential Oils
There are several aspects of essential oils that make them the perfect holistic modality to create a cease fire in a brain stuck in fight-and-flight due to seasonal spastic demands. Below is a summary:
- Odors have the ability to create an instantaneous change in mood and induce memory. This is because smell is the only sense that has direct connections to the emotional areas of the brain. This blog provides a quick, easy-to-understand summary of the neuroanatomy and biochemistry.
- The aromatic influence of essential oils is combined with the biochemical effects of their secondary metabolites to mitigate the stress response at the start. This means that while easing the brain and supporting the strain on the body, essential oils address the root of the issue. In this way, they can break detrimental coping strategies.
- The change in mood that can result from essential oils further shifts the body toward restoration versus survival. The grounding fir oils and emotional blends can increase courage to move into healthier response patterns. Furthermore, essential oils that promote hope and a sense of positivity can support better health outcomes in a variety of ways.
- In addition to emotional and physical benefits of essential oils, they have also been used to enhance spiritual and religious practices from ancient times. In this blog, I highlighted some resources that expand how ancient scripture incorporated balms and scents to enhance healing and connecting to the divine.
Now, I will review why it’s important to also consider the spiritual side of health for managing stress and coping. I will next begin my review of one of the most reverend essential oils for its physical, emotional, and spiritual properties, frankincense oil.
The Science of Spirituality and A Beginning Look at One of the Most Sacred Oils
The connection between spirituality and health is often overlooked by health care practitioners. This is unfortunate, as there is evidence it has an effect on mood, inflammation, and disease outcomes.
Not only does connecting to other humans honor something that is innately hardwired in our genetic code, but cultural practices and the beliefs about spirituality, religion, and specific healing modalities can also influence health outcomes. This is related to how they foster relationships, unite communities, enhance lifestyle practices, and more. (source, source, source)
Furthermore, the compassion and caring that both spirituality and holistic modalities seek to emulate is something that many physicians innately know has healing potential. (source)
One article states:
Because individuals seek meaning when experiencing severe illnesses, and humans universally respond to compassion and caring, spirituality among healthcare workers and managers appears highly appropriate…
Programs should ensure that the views of nonreligious staff and patients are respected and that clear guidelines are established for the extent and nature of affective or spiritual support for patients. (source)
Another article published in Annals of Palliative Medicine reviewed how integrative approaches, including aromatherapy, may provide comfort and a sense of ease and peace similar to that religious and/or spiritual practices. This is especially relevant for those who do not have a shared worship community. The authors urge the importance of this to meet spiritual needs in medicine. This would allow for truly holistic healing experience and has very few risks in comparison to many Western practices:
In addition to its efficacy in reducing symptoms commonly experienced by patients receiving palliative care (e.g., nausea, pain, depression, and existential suffering), integrative medicine offers non-verbal, non-cognitive avenues for many to achieve a peaceful and calm inner state. The calm state often achieved during integrative medicine treatments is similar to that seen during deep prayer or meditation. In such a transcendent or non-ordinary state of consciousness, many people experience new insights or understanding of their lives and choices they must make. Thus, integrative approaches facilitate patients attaining greater self-awareness and may meet their spiritual needs without the religious overtones that accompany traditional prayer. In so doing, patients may gain greater insight and find inner peace through simple, non-verbal approaches. (source)
Now that we understand that spirituality and science are linked, I will begin reviewing one integrative practice that incorporates spirituality for the secular and religious- the use of essential oil of frankincense.
Frankincense Essential Oil for Calm, Ease, and Well-Being Throughout the Sacred Season
Frankincense, the plant, is well known and has been revered for its many healing properties. (source, source, source) It has a vast amount of research, especially the resin which contains very powerful constituents, boswellic acids. These compounds have been found to modulate inflammation and alleviate many associated disease processes that result.
Frankincense has over 600 species, but several of the most well-known and available in the United States are: Boswellia sacra, Boswellia carterii, Boswellia frereana, and Boswellia serrata. All of these species have therapeutic properties and have a vast amount of research to support this claim.
I’ve discussed some of the healing properties of frankincense in previous blogs. You can find a summary and a link to all the articles in this blog.
One of the main confusions that lies with using frankincense is finding a therapeutic oil and choosing among the various species available. If you really want to geek out, you can skim through the many pages on Science.gov that lists 299 results. I gone through the first 101 studies and in the upcoming weeks I will continue to highlight the most relevant abstracts and reviews to explain these differences.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.