Neroli: a research summary

Neroli: a calming oil

Neroli essential oil is well regarded for its anxiety-relieving and calming actions.  Neroli. like lavender, is dominated by the chemical component l-linalool. Linalool is a naturally occuring alcohol. These chemical components have a number of properties such as antiseptic and stress relieving.  Alcohol substances in essential oils have good antiseptic and anti-viral properties as well as having uplifting qualities. Common examples include Linalool, which is a major constituent of Lavender and neroli. 

Cho  et al  (2013) studied the use of aromatherapy in a coronary care ward. The purpose was to study the effects of a blend including neroli, lavender and roman chamomile on sleep anxiety and blood pressure. 56 patients were randomly allocated to either aromatherapy or conventional nursing care groups. The subjects in the aromatherapy group were given the oild to inhale ten times before their angioplasty (widening of the coronary artery, using a balloon catheter to dilate the artery from within) and ten times after the procedure. The results showed a significant lowering of anxiety in the aromatherapy group and improved sleep quality. In conclusion the aromatherapy oils used reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality for the patients. 

Lee et al (2010) researched the use of aromatherapy to ease anxiety during colonoscopy procedures. 48 people who were undergoing colonoscopy in a university hospital were split into two groups. The experimental group inhaled a blend of essential oil with neroli, camomile, lavender and lemon through an aroma stone for 5 minutes before the examination. Then the aroma stone was put on the side of the pillow to spread the aroma scent in the room. The experimental group could inhale the aroma scent as soon as they came into the room and during the examination process. The control group received only standard nursing care. The study showed that the aromatherapy significantly decreased anxiety although it did not reduce the discomfort reported. 

Lee et al (2011) looked at the potential for spousal aromatherapy massage to reduce pain and anxiety in labour. The subjects of this study were laboring women who didn't have any complications during pregnancy. This study was carried out from June to November in 2007. The aromatherapy oil blend included lavender, clary sage, frankincense and neroli. The subjects were allocated into three groups: spouse's aromatherapy group, spouse's oil massage group and control group. Aromatherapy massage and carrier oil massage (no essential oils) was applied for ten minutes every hour after the cervix dilated 5cm. The subjects in the control group were with their spouse during labour but no massage was used. The subjects recorded their anxiety and pain levels using a visual analogue scale. After statistical analysis the  results showed that the spouse's aromatherapy massage using Lavender, Clary sage, Frankincense and Neroli could be effective in decreasing  pain and decreasing anxiety level during labour.

Essential oils can be used effective for therapeutic results but care should always be taken, especially when receiving other medical interventions. It is important to seek advice before blending oils at home as the concentrations must be accurately calculated to avoid potential negative side effects.

For more information on the chemistry of essential oils click here.

Lavender: research summary

Lavender for anxiety reduction.

There are many sources of contemporary research demonstrating that lavender has sedative and calming properties. Below is a summary of some of this research.

Diego et al (1998) studies EEG activity, alertness, and mood in 40 adults given 3 minutes of aromatherapy with lavender.  Participants were also given simple math computations before and after the therapy. After exposure to lavender oil the subjects showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness, they had less depressed mood and reported feeling more relaxed and performed the math computations faster and more accurately following aromatherapy.

Lehrner et al (1998) researched the use of lavender to reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dentists surgery. The goal of the study was to investigate the effect of  essential oils of orange and lavender on anxiety, mood, alertness and calmness in dental patients. Two hundred patients between the ages of 18 and 77 years (half women, half men) were assigned to one of four independent groups. While waiting for their dentist appointment subjects were either stimulated with the odour of orange or the odour of lavender. These conditions were compared to a music condition and a control condition (no scent, no music). Anxiety, mood, alertness and calmness were assessed while subjects waited for dental treatment. Statistical analyses revealed that compared to control condition both oils of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment. This study supported the previous opinion that aromatherapy is capable of altering emotional states and may indicate that the use of aromatherapy is helpful in reducing anxiety in dental patients.

Toda et al (2008) studied the effect of lavender on salivary stress markers. These markers present in human saliva indicate levels of stress. They evaluated the stress relief effect of lavender aroma by measuring sensitive salivary stress markers. Thirty subjects performed a mathematics task for 10min and then rested for 10min. During the rest, 16 students (aroma group) were exposed to airborne organic essential oil of lavender. Saliva samples were collected immediately before and after the  task, and at 5 and 10min after that.  In the aroma group, levels of stress marker that had been elevated at the end of the arithmetic task were statistically significantly lower 10min later. The control group showed no such change.  The results strongly suggest that lavender aroma has a measurable biological stress relief effect.

Field et al (2008) Studied the effects of lavender on babies and their mothers. Babies were given a bath with or without lavender-scented bath oil. The mothers in the lavender bath oil group were more relaxed, smiled and touched their babies more during the bath. Their babies looked at them a greater percentage of the bath time and cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after the bath. The cortisol levels  (a biological stress indicator) of this group of mothers and infants significantly decreased, showing increased relaxation of the mothers and their infants. These findings supported the  body of research demonstrating the relaxing and sleep-inducing properties of lavender oil.

There arte many more reserach studies available that support the use of lavender for relaxation and anxiety management.

Please seek medical advise if you are concerned about stress or anxiety. Lavender oil is not suitable for all and you should check with a aromatherapy professional before use.

Posted on January 20, 2014 .

Aromatherapy for Dementia

Many elderly individuals receive little or no caring touch from others. Introducing massage and aromatherapy to this client group can improve the quality of life for both the client and those caring for them. The treatment can pass on feelings of comfort,security and safety. Using specifically chosen aromatherapy oils can enhance this giving deeper relaxation and assisting in insomnia, depression, confusion and anxiety.

Research into this area of work has been developing over recent decades. In the 1980s massage and later aromatherapy were introduced onto an elderly care ward at Churchill Hospital in Oxford. It was noted that patient's skin texture improved and tissue damage was reduced. The introduction of aromatherapy led to a reduction in sedative medication in the ward ( Price L, Price S (1999) Aromatherapy for health professionals.Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh).

Ballard et al (2002) studied the use of Melissa for elderly people with severe dementia and agitation. 72 people were randomly assigned to the aromatherapy group. They recieved massage with a base oil and melissa while the control group had base oil alone. The massage was performed twice daily on the faces and arms.  This was continued for four weeks. The results were positive: sixty percent of the Melissa group experienced a significant improvement in their agitation scores following treatment compared to 14% of the non melissa group. No negative side effects were noted.

The authors concluded that aromatherapy with  melissa was  safe and effective for individuals with severe dementia and clinically significant agitation. The study group was small and more research is needed before a treatment protocol could be developed but there is strong support for the use of this pleasant non invasive therapy. ( Ballard CG, et al. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with melissa.The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. July 2002, Vol. 63 (7), pp 553-8. Caddy R 1997 Essential oils in colour.Amberwood Publishing Ltd, East Horsley)

Melissa oil has a sweet, fresh and citrus-like smell and is pale yellow in colour. Melissa oil is extracted from Melissa officinalis  is also known as lemon balm.This plant from the Mediterranean region and has small serrated slightly hairy leaves and small white-pink flowers.The flowers are very attractive to bees; the name 'Melissa' is the Greek word for honeybee. In the 14th century it was included in tonic water made by the French Carmelite nuns and Paracelsus (1493 - 1541) called this herb 'The Elixir of life' while John Evelyn (1620 -1706) described it as "sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory, and powerfully chasing away melancholy".

Aromatherapy has been shown to be effective for other conditions experienced by older people such as insomnia, aches and pains and constipation. More research summaries into these areas will be explored in future posts.


Aromatherapy for anxiety

Many of us regularly use aromatherapy oils to help us relax.  We may add aromatherapy blends to our bath or use lavender spray in our bedrooms to aid sleep.

The calming powers of many essential oils have been used throughout history and across different cultures. An experiment in 2012 studied the effects of sweet orange aromatherapy oil on healthy people when placed in a stress inducing situation.  The 40 volunteers were required to perform a complicated test called the the Stroop test. I recall doing these when studying psychology at university and I can confirm they certainly do raise anxiety levels.

During the study a number of outcomes were measured to determine anxiety including heart rate. The volunteers who had inhaled sweet orange oil presented no significant increase in anxiety levels. The volunteers in the control group did display an increase in anxiety.

This research suggests that the use of appropriate aromatherapy oils can help to prevent anxiety in stress inducing situations. This would be very beneficial for many individuals. The study was small and more research is required but the results support the calming powers of certain essential oils.

Find out more about aromatherapy treatments at Breathe Holistic therapy Kidderminster: Aromatherapy.

Posted on August 21, 2013 .

Aromatherapy and Heart Patients

Patients with coronary heart disease often experience very high anxiety levels when admitted to hospital. research indicates that anxiety, stress and related insomnia significantly affect the efficacy of treatment for coronary heart disease.

A Korean study investigated the effects of aromatherapy on anxiety, blood pressure and sleep quality of patients undergoing procedures for coronary heart disease. The study involved 56 patients who were split into control or aromatherapy groups. the aromatherapy oils used were lavender ( reported to lower Blood pressure), roman chamomile ( to relieve anxiety and stress) and neroli ( to calm and ease insomnia).  Aroma stones were used to enable the patients to inhale the aromas prior to their procedure and during the night afterwards.

Anxiety, blood pressure and sleep quality measures were recorded. The results indicated that anxiety levels were significantly reduced in the aromatherapy group. The sleep quality was also improved while the control group reported significantly worse sleep.  The blood pressure of both groups remained comparative with no significant difference.

More reserach is needed but the authors concluded that aromatherapy could become a valuable part of care in hospital.

Find out more about aromatherapy treatments at Breathe Holistic therapy Kidderminster: Aromatherapy.