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Can aromatherapy be used for stress relief to combat fatigue?

Essential oils, by definition, are concentrated plant extracts obtained by steaming or pressing different parts of a plant. Essential oils contain the compounds responsible for a plant’s flavor, fragrance and medicinal benefits.

When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain. There, they influence the activity of the amygdala — the brain’s emotional center — in various ways, depending on their biological properties. Because of this, essential oils are used in aromatherapy.

In a recent study, researchers at the Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences in Iran explored the effects of aromatherapy on fatigue. They chose two essential oils, namely lavender and orange, and compared their effects on patients undergoing hemodialysis. These patients often report feeling exhausted or drained soon after the treatment, and this significantly affects their quality of life.

The researchers reported their findings in an article published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

Combating fatigue with lavender and orange essential oils

According to studies, dialysis patients often require several hours of restful inactivity or sleep to recover from fatigue. In some cases, however, the feeling of having no energy at all persists even after getting ample sleep. Experts refer to this as post-dialysis fatigue, and this complication is associated with hard outcomes, such as hospitalization and mortality.

Recognizing its physical and mental impact on dialysis patients, scientists now consider post-dialysis fatigue as a research priority. To determine if lavender or orange essential oil can effectively relieve post-dialysis fatigue, the researchers conducted an experiment involving 90 patients undergoing dialysis.

They divided the participants into three groups, namely, the lavender group, the orange group and the control. Each participant in the experimental groups were instructed to inhale five drops of either lavender or orange essential oil as treatment. The Fatigue Severity Scale was then used as data collection tool.

The researchers reported that the difference in mean fatigue measurements before and after the treatment was statistically significant in the experimental groups, but not in the control group. This meant that both lavender and orange essential oils were able to reduce fatigue considerably.

The researchers, however, observed no significant difference in mean fatigue between the two experimental groups after the intervention, suggesting that both essential oils are equally effective at alleviating post-dialysis fatigue.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that lavender and orange essential oils can be used to reduce fatigue caused by hemodialysis.

The benefits of lavender and orange essential oils

One of the most popular essential oils used in aromatherapy, lavender essential oil is obtained by distilling the plant Lavandula angustifolia, also known as English lavender. Lavender essential oil possesses plenty of beneficial properties, such as anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Lavender essential oil is also great for relieving spasms and pain, detoxifying the body, lowering blood pressure and promoting calm or inducing sleep.

But what lavender essential oil is best-known for is reducing anxiety. In a study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, American researchers found that high-risk postpartum women responded well to aromatherapy. Treatment with lavender essential oil twice a week for four weeks not only reduced their anxiety levels, it also alleviated depression without causing adverse effects.

Orange essential oil is extracted from orange rind using a method called cold pressing. Versatile and sweet-smelling, orange essential oil has a wide variety of applications. This includes treating skin conditions like acne, reducing pain and inflammation, relieving stomach issues, flavoring foods and beverages, giving fragrance to cleaners and perfumes and serving as a natural household cleaner.

Like lavender essential oil, orange essential oil is known for reducing stress and anxiety and uplifting the mood. According to Eric Zielinski, author of The Healing Powers of Essential Oils, mood is a big piece of energy, so a mood imbalance can trigger fatigue. Essential oils derived from citrus fruits like lemon, lime and orange can improve the mood considerably because they can trigger warm and happy memories.

Essential oils are extremely useful and therapeutic, but they require caution when using. Whether used topically or internally, some essential oils can cause harmful reactions if not properly diluted. This is because they are highly concentrated, so mixing them with carrier oils like olive oil or coconut oil is a must. To avoid any adverse effects, seek advice from a natural health practitioner before using essential oils.

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