Soothing Stress with Aromatherapy


Cheryl Hoard


On this subject I feel compelled to speak from my own perspective. My husband is teasing me at this moment, suggesting I write an article about the stress of writing an article about stress. At times in my life I have taken on quite a lot of responsibilities resulting in huge workloads and I have a lot of experience using aromatherapy to soothe all the myriad aspects of stress. “Myriad aspects of stress” seems like an understatement when I consider how stress symptoms cause even more symptoms that can snowball to become a full circle. I have found that any small step you take to soothe even one symptom helps break the circle. Luckily health and well being can snowball just as easy as stress symptoms.

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils. Most essential oils are produced by steam distillation of plant material. They used to be the perfumes before there were chemicals. It is the essential oil in a rose petal that makes it smell like a rose and it is what we smell when a peppermint leaf is crushed in our fingers. Aromatherapy is the use of pure, therapeutic quality essential oils produced from botanical material. It is not the use of merely scented body care and similar products, almost all of which are scented with cheaper synthetic fragrances. Nearly all the fragrances we encounter in perfumes, body & hair products and laundry & cleaning products are synthetic chemicals.

Inhalation and application are the two main ways essential oils are used in aromatherapy. Inhalation can simply be drops placed on a tissue or handkerchief and held close to the nose, diffusers and air sprays can fragrance a room, steam inhalations are especially therapeutic and of course these essences can be worn as healing perfumes. Application of essential oils to the skin require dilution first. Essential oils find their way into massage oil, lotion, cream, balm, body gel, soap & shampoo making these products the most popular way oils are applied to the skin. Examples of other therapeutic applications would include compresses, baths, foot & hand baths. Especially because our topic here is stress, the oils need to be incorporated into your life in a way that would be the easiest and most convenient for you. This will influence your choice of aromatherapy methods listed above.

It is not always just relaxation that is needed for dealing with stress. There may be times when you need a pick-me-up because of lack of energy due to previous stress. Irritability is experienced sometimes due to stress and the citrus oils are famous for making you feel more cheerful. Sometimes your thoughts need to be calmed but still more physical energy is needed also. Here it’s good to use balancing essential oils mixed with other oils. There are many options for using aromatherapy for these purposes and it is best to find oils that smell good to you. There is no right or wrong with fragrances. What smells good to one, may not smell good to another. When you want to affect your thoughts, mood and emotions it is better to use essential oils that smell best to you.

Smelling good quality essential oils is an adventure. Their fragrances bring up memories and associations unique to each individual. According to the scientific community our sense of smell is the least understood compared to the other senses. The reason why essential oils have an effect on our mind, mood and emotions is easy to understand when you consider they enter our brain through our noses, triggering reactions in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system then directly influences our nervous, endocrine and immune systems.

Early on in my herb/aromatherapy business I created a starter kit for aromatherapy consisting of six oils: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Marjoram, Peppermint, Orange & Ylang Ylang. Over the years I have had cause to offer advice as to which group of oils would be the best for a beginner, best to sell in a store, best for soothing most common problems, best for traveling and best for dealing with stress. I rethink the answer each time and always proudly realize the original starter kit takes care of everything.

Treating specific physical problems can reduce stress. Essential oils offer many actions like analgesic, anti-inflammatory, sedating, antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic that we can take advantage of. The true effect of stress on your health is measured by how you deal with it, not the events or stress itself. I remember an aromatherapy conference and trade show in Seattle, WA in which I participated in many ways. Not only did I have to prepare to speak, send huge amounts of expensive product and booth decorations in advance, set up the booth and sell for 2 days, I’m a musician as well and had to travel to New York to play a very big concert on the way to Seattle! Concerts like this take an enormous amount of preparation as well. I took along my essential oil helpers which enabled me to have the mental comfort that I could deal with whatever came my way. They took care of the aching back, cuts, scrapes and bruises, stuffy nose from airplanes and hotels, relaxation before the concert, the beginnings of a sore throat, stiff neck, mental fatigue and stomach ache from rich Indian food celebrations after the trade show was over.

Perhaps the most significant uniqueness of aromatherapy is that essential oils offer deep and broad healing on many other levels of our being besides just our physical body. They have a profound effect on the psychological and energetic plane. These other aspects of the wholistic you are involved in your stress as well, making the use of essential oils absolutely, superior remedies. While each of our unique emotional and personality histories may be contributing to our current stress, it sure makes a lot of sense to get rid of that headache immediately when pain is consuming our present attention. Here’s a brief list of what a wisely chosen group of essential oils can do for the physical:

DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS: Peppermint, Orange

SKIN PROBLEMS: Lavender, Ylang Ylang

RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Marjoram

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: Lavender, Marjoram, Ylang Ylang

POOR CIRCULATION: Marjoram, Peppermint, Eucalyptus

INFECTIONS: Lavender, Eucalyptus, Peppermint

MUSCULAR & SKELETAL PROBLEMS: Marjoram, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Peppermint

HEADACHES: Lavender, Peppermint

INSOMNIA: Marjoram, Lavender, Orange

IMMUNE DEFICIENCY: Lavender, Eucalyptus

ALLERGIES: Lavender, Eucalyptus

DEPRESSION: Ylang Ylang, Orange, Lavender

My heart goes out to all those facing cancer and their caring loved ones. This must be supreme stress for all those involved. Aromatherapy comforts at all levels and in every situation. Essential oils are very concentrated though and during cancer even more caution is advised because the body is under extreme conditions. The essential oils to avoid during cancer are: Basil (Sweet), Bergamot, Clary Sage, Cypress & Pine. Also think about the specific areas of the body involved with the cancer. During skin cancer you would be wise to avoid all phototoxic essential oils because they make your skin more sensitive to ultraviolet rays of the sun or a tanning bed. There are a few oils that are potentially toxic to the liver and kidneys so if your cancer was affecting these organs you may wish to avoid those as well. This kind of safety data is not usually available in common aromatherapy books but is easily available through our website

Here’s a brief profile of each essential oil in our starter kit including mental & spiritual aspects:

Eucalyptus globulus
SAFETY: Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid with high blood pressure and epilepsy. Not for small children.

FRAGRANCE: Clean, Fresh, Medicinal, Camphoraceous

PHYSICAL: Respiratory, Circulation, Infection, Muscle/Joint, Immune, Allergies

MIND/SPIRIT: Refreshing & stimulating, Helps concentration, Encourages optimism when feeling constricted in life, Promotes logical thought

Lavandula angustifolia
SAFETY: Tested non-toxic at low levels.

FRAGRANCE: Floral, Sweet, Herbacious, Balsamic, Woody undertones

PHYSICAL: Skin, Respiratory, Infection, Muscle/Joint, Headache, High Blood Pressure, Insomnia, Immune, Allergies, Depression, Anxiety(nervous system)

MIND/SPIRIT: Comforting, Helps inner acceptance of painful situations, Promotes renewal especially from old habits

Origanum marjorana
SAFETY: Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant, with asthma, low blood pressure, depression. Sedative.

FRAGRANCE: Herbaceous, Green, Spicy

PHYSICAL: Respiratory, Circulation, High Blood Pressure, Muscle/Joint, Insomnia, Anxiety (nervous system)

MIND/SPIRIT: Calming for obsessions, Dispels feelings of persecution & oppression, Soothes grief, sorrow and loneliness (Marjoram is so sedating though, caution is advised during depression.)

Citrus sinensis
SAFETY: Tested non-toxic at low levels. Potentially sensitizing, phototoxic.

FRAGRANCE: Fresh, Citrusy, Fruity, Sweet, Light

PHYSICAL: Digestion, Insomnia, Depression, Anxiety (nervous system)

MIND/SPIRIT: Uplifting, Disperses irritability, Promotes courage and confidence, Good for those who “try too hard”

Mentha x piperita
SAFETY: Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid when pregnant, lactating. Skin irritant. Keep away from infants.

FRAGRANCE: Minty, Sharp, Intense

PHYSICAL: Digestion, Respiratory, Circulation, Infection, Muscle/Joint, Headache

MIND/SPIRIT: Invigorating, Promotes concentration, Encourages self acceptance by acting on the ego, Helps with pride and inferiority

Cananga odorata genuina Hook
SAFETY: Tested non-toxic at low levels. Potentially sensitizing. Do not use on inflamed skin. Excess may cause headache, nausea.

FRAGRANCE: Sweet, Heavy, Narcotic, Cloying, Tropical Floral with spicy-balsamic undertones

PHYSICAL: Skin, Depression, High Blood Pressure, Anxiety (nervous system)

MIND/SPIRIT: Warming, Heightens expression, Promotes feelings of joy & pleasure, Encourages sensuality, Softens guilt & harsh feelings toward self



Battaglia, Salvatore. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. Virginia, Queensland: The Perfect Potion. 1995.

Green, Mindy. Natural Perfumes. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press Inc. 1999.

Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1996.

Sheppard-Hanger, Sylla. The Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual, Vol. 1, Vol. 2. Tampa: Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. 1997.

Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Fragrant Mind. Novato, California: New World Library. 1996.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.