Do you feel panicky and anxious? Perhaps these worries are keeping you awake at night or making you too afraid to really take part in life. I’m so sorry you’re feelingly like that, and let me first reassure you, that you are not alone.
Around 40 million Americans, just like you are suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder, and strangely women are twice as likely to be affected than men.
To make that worse more than half of those are suffer from another condition, like headaches, insomnia or depression. The doctor can be very helpful, but anxiety meds are not only being expensive, but can give some people side effects such as nausea, dizziness and headaches, or worse perhaps weight gain, insomnia or even reducing libido it’s not surprising that both doctors and patients are seeking alternative strategies to help us feel calmer.
So, what do we know about anxiety?
Well perhaps you know better than most.
That awful sense of dread, of something…even though sometimes you can’t even say what that is. The strange and terrifying sense that somethings waiting to happen and when it does it will be bad. Most of us have felt it, and it’s horrible. But perhaps for you, that alarm never switches off, and maybe each day it seems to be getting worse.
It might be that lavender could help you feel calmer, because of the way its fragrance molecules interact with the brain. The remarkable thing about the human body is how it throws sensations. It’s almost as is reluctant to take the blame. So, it disguises its tricks in your chest changing your breathing, choking you at the throat and churning your stomach demanding you take notice that something is wrong.
But the truth is, your chest, your gut, your bowels, your heart, they are sensations projected through your nervous system, from your brain. All day, every day, we pick up messages about our surroundings through the things we hear, see, smell, touch and taste and this information is sent along nerves to the brain to be interpreted. A primal section called the limbic system, not only interprets the sounds etc, but also controls our emotions, our thoughts and our memories. As the information traverses the limbic system, it encounters an almond shaped part of the brain called the amygdala, whose job, amongst other things, is to process information about fear. It weighs up if danger seems imminent and if it does, it despatches chemicals – neuro-hormones and transmitters - to summon re-enforcements to protect the body and prepare it to defend itself from the imagined war.
Now, I’m not saying the amygdala is a drama queen, but she does like to shout, and she demands that people take notice. Let’s be fair for a minute, that is her job. It’s her that has stopped you walking in front of buses all these years. But sometimes, she just doesn’t know when to stop. But she has a couple of pals to keep her in check, and her best mate is the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, boring name for a really cool gal, so because amygdala loves her, she calls her VmPFC. No-one really talks about VmPFC because she’s not very sexy. If she had feet, she’d wear sensible shoes. She’s reasonable, pragmatic and very, very level. Her job is to make reasoned judgements, to be logical, balanced and calm. In 21st century speak, when amygdala kicks off about some imagined danger round the corner, she is the brain part that says … “Is it, though?” and gives a calming explanation as to why it’s probably not. And if she can be heard, VMPFC can usually calm amygdala down, she uses a neurotransmitter called serotonin (5HT1A in science-speak) to stoke her, to hold her and to shush her back to sleep. Of course, that’s great for amygdala. She likes it, but she’s quickly bored. She prefers colourful drama and passion, so she’ll go and find some more. She likes the fuss and attention. She wants to be stroked by VmPFC. But, VmPFC is no fool. She’s no-one’s enabler, and after a while she say “You know what amygdala, whatever. I’ve had enough. You’re not listening anyway. I’m out. And she does. She’s a good friend, so she stays there still picking up the phone to the calls, but she no longer interacts by sending 5HT-1a. No-one’s there to pick up her pieces now. So, amygdala finds herself a new friend, hippocampus. He’s in charge of fear conditioning and between them, they make such a ruckus, they literally have babies. The generate new nerve cells called neurons in the image of frenzy. More and more babies until the whole of amygdala is made up of neurons of worry. Now the fact that deaths anxiety meds overdoses have quadrupled in recent years makes sense. The brain needs so more to switch it off.
So, here is where aromatherapy comes in, because whilst it cannot cure anxiety, it does make you feel so much more relaxed. It calms, cossets and helps you to drift to sleep.
People have used plant medicine from thousands of years but it’s only in the last forty years or so we have been able to understand snippets of how a plant can make you feel calm. The first part is the strange co-incidence of how the limbic system interprets fragrances, and links them with memories and emotions. That delicious freedom of running your hand over a lavender bush in the lazy sunlight, gets stored in a box somewhere for you to remember how calm feels when you need to.
Very odd stuff.
Lavender essential oil typically contains more than 100 natural chemical compounds, all tapping into different parts of our body. Linalyl acetate and linalool are particularly relaxing ones.
We know that they can improve signaling of 5HTA-1, and maybe that switches the VmPFC back on to care taking again. We don’t really know.
Experiments also show that lavender supports healthy signaling of the calming neurotransmitter GABAA. When GABA levels drop, we feel jumpy, twitchy and afraid. When they go up again, that seems to recede. So simple inhalation of the flower grown under the Bulgarian sun slows your breath, reduces your heart rate and calms your fear.
Whatever the reason for lavenders relaxing gifts, we at Terroma want to preserve it in its quintessential form, 100% certified organic, no fertilizers or pesticides danced upon by bees and carefully distilled using pure spring water by artisanal producers.
No need to adulterate something that is already perfect.
Terroma Bulgarian Lavender…Because feeling calm is priceless.
Author: Elizabeth Ashley, AKA The Secret Healer
Elizabeth Ashley is The UK Director of National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy and overseas speaker for the International Federation of Aromatherapists, also the author of 20 books about aromatherapy including 12 Amazon category number one best sellers, as well as being a regular contributor to five professional trade journals.