On stress & oils (Part 1)

***** First published March 11, 2019 *****

There is no illness of the body apart from the mind. - Socrates

In this era of electronics and fast paced instant living, we have little or no time to relax. In fact, many of us may not even know how to relax. We encounter more frequent use of pharmaceuticals to help us cope with day to day life. There are a number of essential oils available that can be used to help us cope with the stresses and anxieties of modern living. Many of them are not the first ones that come to mind when we think of relaxing. However, these oils all have amazing benefits that can help us unwind.

Bergamot - Citrus bergamia

Bergamot oil comes to us from a non-edible fruit. The fruit is mainly cultivated for its oil, which is processed by cold-pressing. Bergamot essential oil is usually green or an olive green in color. It was commonly used in Italian folk remedies for treating worms as well as fevers. The oil is used to flavor Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas, as well as many confections and candy. The name bergamot is assumed to come from one of the main regions where the fruit is cultivated, in Bergamo, Italy.


Bergamot is one of the most widely used oils in treating various types of stress. It can be etremely helpful when treating depression, anxiety, insomnia, frustration or irritability, as well as general tension. Bergamot has a wonderful ability to lift and refresh the spirit, relax and restore us, but is also a great calming aid.

The oil is mostly composed of monoterpenes, which typically energize us; and esters, which usually have sedative properties and are calming to the nervous system. This can seem almost contradictory, but the scent directly affects the CNV brain waves while keeping our alertness, heart rate, and reaction time the same. Citrus scents tend to affect our actual brain chemistry and help with lowering blood pressure. Because the oil can both relax and refresh, it is a fantastic oil to use during a massage - the oil will help reduce the tension in our muscles, but leave us feeling energized and ready to face the day.

Bergamot oil is associated with the the 4th (Heart) chakra because of its green color. Using the oil can help us to allow love to radiate from us, boost our moral constitution, and can enable people to see and use their natural talents in suitable ways. Bergamot can assist in smoothing and dispersing the flow of stagnant Qi (energy) which can manifest as tension, depression, irritability, or frustration. The scent helps with the release of pent up feelings as well as helping us to "let go".

If you happen to have eating problems stemming from nervous tension, bergamot is an excellent oil to stimulate the appetite. It can actually assist with compulsive and addictive behaviors by helping us to rediscover optimism and spontaneity in our lives.

Melissa - Melissa officinalis

Melissa (aka lemon balm) oil is steam distilled from the leaves and flowers of the plant. It is a thin, yellow oil with a lemony scent to it. Melissa oil is typically high in aldehydes which are strong sedatives. Melissa's scent can be overwhelming to some, and those with sensitive skin should avoid topical use.

The herb was originally the main ingredient for "Carmelite Water", which was used to treat neuralgia and nervous headaches. Today, it is commonly used in herbal teas and ice cream. Paracelsus called melissa the "elixir of life" and it was often used in the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety and cure insomnia. Melissa is also said to improve mood and mental performance.

lemon balm

Similar to bergamot oil, melissa is both calming and uplifting. It is a very powerful oil, but at the same time is fairly gentle. Melissa is wonderful in treating anger, fear, nervousness, and weakness caused by nervousness. It can relieve depression, stress and anxiety, as well as helping those suffering from insomnia. Melissa is especially beneficial in cases of panic or hysteria, as it has a calming effect on tachycardia and rapid breathing. It works wonders in cases of shock by soothing the mind and lowering blood pressure.  Melissa has tranquilizing properties and can calm heat spasms and soothe a nervous stomach. It is outstanding in massage blends for people who are feeling stressed or just "jittery".

The emotional attributes of melissa oil are similar to the physical effects. It is said to counteract melancholy and restore clarity to confused souls. Melissa can also be quite useful when dealing with those who are bereaved, especially in accordance with sudden or tragic deaths. In regards to the plant, Avicenna said, "Balm maketh the heart merry and joyful, and strengtheneth the vital spirits."

On an energetic level, melissa is considered to be both 'cool' and 'dry'. It is good for heat in the Liver and Heart (meridians), and like bergamot, helps to dissipate stagnant Qi. Melissa oil is associated with both the 3rd (Solar Plexus) and 4th (Heart) chakras. It helps us to expand our feelings towards the acceptance of unconditional love. The subtleties of the oil can work extremely well for people who dislike confrontation and who tend to hold in anger and hurt feelings.

Roman Chamomile - Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile

When most people think of an herb that can calm or sooth us, they tend to think of chamomile. Who has not made a cup of chamomile tea to help ease the stresses of the day? Chamomile has many uses in various cultures and parts of the world. In Europe, the herb is used as a soporific (sleep inducing herb), while in our own country, it is extremely helpful for women. When severe stress wreaks havoc on our menstrual cycles, chamomile can be used an an emmenagogue and help with suppressed cycles or extremely painful ones. Historically, chamomile was used to treat hysterical and nervous afflictions in women, and Culpepper suggested that it comforts the head and brain.

The essential oil is made by steam distilling the flower of the sweet apple-smelling plant, and is usually high in esters, which are calming to the nervous system.

roman chamomile

Chamomile oil is great in diffusers or burners, and can be used in this way to treat nervous headaches or migraines. It can be helpful in reducing anxiety and over-thinking and can bring a sense of calm when you are irritable or angry. Chamomile (both the herb and the oil) has a very gentle action to it and is non-toxic. This is a great option when treating children or anyone who may react strongly to more potent smelling oils.

Chamomile is an excellent sleep aid, and is almost indispensable to those who suffer from insomnia. It can be tremendously useful when treating shock as well as allergic reactions. Many people can develop allergic reactions such as hives when they are under stress. Chamomile oil can help ease the skin reactions, as well as treating the underlying stress issues. The oil has great anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce inflammation and heat in areas of the body.

Energetically and emotionally, chamomile helps with tension in the Solar Plexus (3rd) chakra. It can help with letting go of certain expectations, and also assists with accepting support and help when we encounter our own limitations. Chamomile oil promotes and smooths the free flowing of Qi, which relaxes our nerves and eases pain.

Sweet Marjoram - Origanum majorana


Marjoram is an herb that most people associate with its culinary uses, but marjoram essential oil has many uses for relieving stress. The herb was traditionally planted on graves to bring peace to the dead, and Evelyn wrote the the herb was useful in "powerfully chasing away melancholy".

Marjoram oil is high in esters, which as stated prior, are calming to the nervous system. It is considered a hypotensive, nervine, and a strong sedative. Marjoram is also a vasodilator, and reduces stress and strain on the heart, along with calming tachycardia and palpitations. The oil helps with the autonomic nervous system by stimulating the parasympathetic system and lowering the sympathetic system's responses. It can be useful in combating nervous exhaustion and spasms, chronic lethargy, as well as nervous coughs. Marjoram can also help with anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, or general stress; however, use caution! In large doses, marjoram can be stupefying and dull the senses!

Marjoram has wonderful comforting and warming qualities. It can be used to comfort the lonely and grieving, and help us to accept deep loss. The oil is also quite balancing, greatly beneficial to the emotionally unstable and those who are prone to hysteria or irritability. Marjoram oil can ease emotional craving and calm obsessive thinking, both of which can lead to mental stress.

To be continued in part 2.....