Essential Oils to Support You in the New Year
It’s that time of year when we have had our fill of holiday meals and festive libations and our body is craving healthy habits. People often turn to aromatherapy to support them through what can be for some a difficult transition period. Is there any validity to the claims that inhaled essential oils can help curb cravings, or is it all placebo?
Some of the more common New Year’s resolutions are to be more productive during the day, eat less, quit smoking, and improve sleep. I hate to break it to you, but there is no oil to make a person instantly rich!
In a recent masterclass with Dr. Joy Bowles on the trigeminal nerve, we were asked to name the essential oils that we find to be energizing. Most participants answered with various citrus oils, which are like little bottles of sunshine, but research shows that essential oils containing the constituent 1,8 cineole were most effective at triggering feelings of alertness. These oils include rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus/Rosmarinus officinalis),peppermint (Mentha piperita), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), sage (Salvia officinalis), spearmint (Mentha spicata) and tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). I made an inhaler with five drops each of rosemary ct. cineol, eucalyptus and spearmint and found it to be bright and refreshing, and it helped me to keep alert throughout the day.
So now we are awake and going about our day, and we have hit our mid-morning coffee break. Instead of reaching for a carb-filled snack in the lunchroom, take a whiff of peppermint essential oil. A 2007 study showed that participants who inhaled peppermint essential oil every two hours for five days consumed fewer calories and noted decreased hunger. One essential oil often recommended for appetite control is grapefruit (Citrus paradisi). In a 2005 study out of Japan, it was found that inhalation of grapefruit essential oil, particularly the constituent limonene, reduced appetite and body weight with 15 minutes of inhalation, three times a week for six weeks. The effects of limonene from grapefruit and lemon (Citrus limon) essential oils on body-weight gain were also studied in 2003. Perhaps an inhaler with peppermint, grapefruit and lemon essential oils would be an effective tool in curbing the munchies.
Another common New Year’s resolution people make is to quit smoking. I have seen black pepper (Piper nigrum) oil to be recommended for supporting people’s efforts to butt out, but what is the reason for this claim? A 1994 study hypothesized that the sensation provided by inhaling black pepper essential oil would mimic the sensation felt when inhaling from a cigarette. The researchers found that “the vapor of black pepper essential oil, when inhaled, partially reproduces the respiratory tract sensations experienced when smoking, thereby reducing the craving for cigarettes.” Another study carried out over five days in 2000 as part of the RJ Buckle Student Studies on Addiction found that angelica (Angelica archangelica) essential oil helped participants to lengthen the time they could wait to have a cigarette from 2 minutes with no intervention to 53 minutes with inhaling angelica. However, angelica could not help them to quit completely. A further study published in 2013 that compared the use of angelica to black pepper essential oil found that black pepper appeared to reduce cravings for tobacco, whether in the form of cigarettes or chewing tobacco, and angelica helped participants to put off using tobacco for longer periods of time.
We have now had a busy day of being awake and alert, staying away from snacks and smokes, and now it is time for a good night’s rest. Better sleep hygiene is top of mind these days, and better sleep habits will help us get through the next day. A quick Google search for research on sedative essential oils brings up several studies citing lavender (Lavandula angustifolia/Lavandula officinalis). Wendy Robbins, CA, lists 15 essential oils on AromaWeb, the more widely used being bergamot (Citrus bergamia), black spruce (Picea mariana),clary sage (Salvia sclarea), mandarin (Citrus reticulata), marjoram (Origanum majorana), Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis/Chamaemelum nobile), sandalwood (Santal album), vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides), ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) and, of course, lavender.
All these recommendations are moot, however, if we don’t address the underlying stress and anxious feelings that are driving these conditions. Stress affects your sleep/wake patterns, leads to overeating sugar and carbohydrates, and causes cravings for nicotine and other addictive substances. A 2009 review of anxiolytic essential oils discusses the constituents in a number of anxiolytic essential oils, including lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), rose (Rosa damascena), orange (Citrus sinensis), bergamot (Citrus aurantium), lemon (Citrus limon), sandalwood (Santalum album), clary sage (Salvia sclarea), Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), and rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.). Coincidentally, the essential oils in this review include many of the oils mentioned above that help with sleep. The review concludes that the constituents responsible for relieving stress and anxious feelings include terpenoid alcohols (linalool, geraniol, and/or citronellol), the monoterpene limonene, or citral.
Whatever your health goals are for 2022, you have a powerful ally with aromatherapy. Add up to 15 drops of the essential oils you need to a personal inhaler and keep it beside your bed, in your pocket, your desk drawer, or anywhere you need support the most. Make sure to put a label on your inhaler with the date you made it and which essential oils you used. Good luck with attaining your goals and be gentle with yourself along the way.
 DaCosta R. Nicotine withdrawal and aromatherapy. Unpublished dissertation. Hunter, N.Y.: R J Buckle Associates; 1999.
About the author: Shannon Bachorick completed her aromatherapy certification studies in 2016, and went on to become a Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional® and Registered Aromatherapist®. She has been on the board of directors of the CFA since 2019 as Research Director and Communications Director. She practises in Regina, Saskatchewan, and is the founder of Santéssence Aromatherapy.
Photo credit: CatLane, Getty Images Signature