In our highly stressful modern world, people don’t take enough time to stop and smell the roses. Fortunately, science is proving that breathing in some of nature’s most enjoyable fragrances can reduce the harmful effects of stress and high blood pressure so often linked with stress. Korean researchers determined that inhaling essential oils can help decrease high blood pressure without any detrimental side effects often associated with drugs.
The study, published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, identified the effects of essential oil inhalation on the 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure (blood pressure as you move around leading your normal daily routine) and salivary cortisol level. Cortisol is a stress hormone created by the adrenal glands.
The scientists enlisted 83 pre-hypertensive and hypertensive subjects, the former referring to individuals with elevated blood pressure or early-stage high blood pressure and the latter referring to individuals already diagnosed with high blood pressure. A third of the study subjects (the experimental group) were given a necklace to wear that was scented with an essential oil blend of ylang ylang, lavender, marjoram and neroli to inhale. The subjects were instructed to wear the necklace during the daytime and place an aroma stone with two oil drops by the bedside for a 24-hour inhalation time-frame. The placebo group was asked to inhale artificial fragrances for 24 hours and the control group received no treatment.
The experiment concluded that the inhalation of this essential oil blend had immediate and continuous effects on both daytime blood pressure and stress reduction, indicating that essential oil therapy shows promise in the control of hypertension. This is not surprising. Aromatherapy is as old as nature itself. The scents of flowers, trees and other plants have always had an impact on other life forms. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were experts in the use of aromatherapy and the healing properties of these natural oils continue to be confirmed by leading universities and research institutes around the world.
High blood pressure affects millions of Americans, from children to the elderly; it makes the heart work harder to pump blood out to the entire body. It can be a precursor to stroke, kidney disease, atherosclerosis and ultimately lead to heart failure. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two types of high blood pressure: The first is called primary hypertension that builds up over years and has no identifiable cause. The second defines blood pressure as the result of an underlying condition such as sleep disorders, alcohol abuse, drug use (both medical and illicit drugs), kidney, thyroid or adrenal gland disorders, or congenital defects in the blood vessels.
High quality essential oils are not typically found in “bath and beauty” stores at the local mall. Avoid oils labelled “fragrance” or include ingredients other than the oils from the plant or plants they are supposed to comprise. Seek out undiluted, pure oils. They may cost more but they are the real deal and won’t be compromised by processing.
In addition to breathing in the soothing fragrances above, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of high blood pressure. Diet is essential and too much sodium or alcohol must be avoided. Eat potassium-rich foods like bananas, green leafy vegetable, citrus fruits, apricots, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, whole grains and potatoes. Ensure you are getting enough physical activity and are mitigating stress in your daily routine. And don’t forget to stop and smell the aromatherapy.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is an international best-selling 18-time book author whose works include: Weekend Wonder Detox: 6 Quick Cleanses to Strengthen Your Body and Enhance Your Beauty.