Nothing affects how you look, feel or function as much as sleep (or lack of it). Whether it’s worry, heartburn or an achy back that’s keeping you awake at night, research suggests essential oils can help relieve everything from pain and anxiety to jet lag when used appropriately. The antibacterial, anti-fungal properties of some oils can also make them perfect for cleaning the home.
But while certain oils may help exert specific effects on the mind and body, for instance lavender for relaxation, not all people respond the same way. This can be the result of associative behaviour – odours are known to trigger different emotions and memories in people. The chemical components of essential oils can also affect people in different ways.
The purity of the oil can also affect its potential, so avoid oils with synthetic fragrances or colours, and always follow the manufacturer’s guidance before use. Some oils can also be blended to enhance their therapeutic benefits and encourage, for instance, a more restful night’s sleep.
What’s keeping you awake?
Pain can make sleeping tricky and exacerbate the problem, making it a vicious cycle that’s tough to break. For general aches and pains, try roman chamomile for its alleged anti-inflammatory and relaxant benefits or marjoram, which may help lessen aches, pains and muscular cramps. Some people believe in the power of thyme and rosemary in reducing muscle soreness and rheumatism respectively, and vetiver, which may help alleviate joint stiffness and fatigue.
Sleep boosts mental wellbeing while a lack of it can lead to mood disorders that impact on everyday life. Therapeutic oils such as vetiver can provide a grounding effect on emotions, while basil can help lessen anxious feelings when diffused. The most commonly used oil for relaxation is lavender which can reduce anxious feelings and promote peaceful sleep when correctly used.
Heartburn or indigestion is another common sleep saboteur that can often be corrected by avoiding certain foods. To help relieve the symptoms, try oils such as cardamon and coriander to aid digestion, or sweet fennel oil which some believe relieves cramps, indigestion, bloating and acid reflux. Ginger may also help to counter indigestion though its strong smell isn’t to everyone’s liking.
There’s little you can do to avoid jet lag but there are things you can do to help minimise its effect. Avoid sleeping unless it’s a normal time for your destination, and use an eye mask and ear plugs to help you sleep. You can also help reduce fatigue and reset your internal clock with rosemary or thyme or by using oils such as sandalwood which can offset grogginess with its uplifting properties.
Migraines are a prevalent neurological disease, affecting one billion people worldwide. To help stop or alleviate a tension or sinus headache, try peppermint or eucalyptus oil which can be great for clearing a stuffy head. Rosemary oil may also help lower stress and the emotional triggers that can lead to a headache and its debilitating effects.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions before using any oil.