The Six Oldest Stress Relief Oils for the New Year

The Six Oldest Stress Relief Oils for the New Year
The end of the year is a cozy backpocket of holidays.

If it isn’t for Christmas, office-goers take paid leave to spend time with their family and friends, planning events in the week before New Year’s Day.

As the happy time swiftly comes to an end, however, they dread the return to work, and their managers and therapists may find complications in their commitment in January. Few but the most dedicated workaholics want to get back to the grind, and fewer still avoid withdrawal symptoms from all the holiday-related dopamine. 

To make return to work bearable, we have curated a list of the 6 essential oil ingredients that have been relieving people for centuries—in matters of occupational discomfort, anxiety, and more: 

  • Peppermint
  • Cedarwood
  • Frankincense
  • Sandalwood 
  • Damask rose
  • Lavender flower


Peppermint: Fresh Feelings for the Infirmary 

History & Geography:

Peppermint has not been just the source for candy canes and zebra drops!  

In the inner sactums of Egyptian pyramids, archaeologists have found dried peppermint leaves that date back to 1500 BCE. What was peppermint’s function? Historians posit that it was possibly a symbol of health for the afterlife. It was also researched that, given ancient standards of dental care being low, ancient Egyptians created “breath mint” pellets of a boiled mixture of peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, myrrh, and honey! 

According to Pliny the Elder, the famous Roman natural historian, peppermint was also useful in ancient Greece and Rome. The plant’s leaves were also used for sauces, wines, perfumes, bathwater, gastrointestinal ailments, and a bevy of other illnesses. He also advised fellow scholars to wear a crown of mint to help them think clearly while studying! 

Growing throughout Europe and North America, peppermint is a natural hybrid between two species of mint: spearmint and watermint—scientifically, it is the Mentha × piperita crossbreed. The peppermint essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the plant. 

Topical Peppermint Essential Oil’s Uses:

Even if it also is used in mints, cookies, chocolates, chewing gum, and other sweets, it has a wider influence on the world of industry. A range of non-food items, including soaps, perfumes, over-the-counter drugs, and much more, also contain peppermint’s extracts. 

In the realm of topical use, peppermint essential oil can serve these four issues:

  • Nausea & Vomiting: As an aromatherapeutic aid, peppermint oil helps reduce symptoms of nausea, which is frequently experienced following illness, accidents, surgery, and many forms of trauma. It has been successfully tested to treat post-op nausea in cardiac patients, where it was found that “peppermint oil inhalation is a viable first-line treatment for nausea in postoperative cardiac surgery patients.” 
  • Migraines: In the application of migraines, the “nasal application of peppermint oil caused considerable reduction in the intensity and frequency of headache and relieved the majority of patients' pain.” 
  • Skin blood flow and possible hair growth: Menthol is the most abundant component of peppermint essential oil. In a 2016 study examining the effects of topical menthol, researchers found that topically applied menthol increases skin blood flow. This could also help with hair growth, as increased blood flow may help stimulate your scalp.  
  • Respiratory and muscle therapy: In aromatherapy, peppermint oil is promoted for treating flus, coughs, colds and other respiratory tract diseases (RTD). Additionally, menthol's constituents have been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, soothe tense or spasming muscles, and stop the growth of germs and other microbes.

Sandalwood: Scent that Stays on the Scene

History & Geography:

Rabindranath Tagore once wrote of sandalwood’s almost-holy quality in the face of its  harvesting:

“As if to prove that love would conquer hate, the sandalwood perfumes the very axe that lays it low.”

For close to 4,000 years since the time of the Vedas, sandalwood from India and the Malay Archipelago has been used for religious incense, aromatherapy, perfumes, and carven idols. It was traded across the Incense Trade Route that connected the Mediterranean to Arabia to India. Cultures across this route, from Ancient Indians and Egyptians, to antiquarian Persians, to medieval Islamic peoples, used the wood and oils for several expensive purposes. 

Its peculiar slow-growing nature creates its variegated, lasting scent—the older the tree is, the richer its scent is, and nothing less than a 15-year-old tree will yield valuable essential oils. Thus, due to its slow biological process, its supply is restricted, and it is the second-most expensive wood in the world after African blackwood. Once extracted, though, the scent generously lasts for decades. Sandalwood oil serves as a base oil in Indian and Middle Eastern atars (aromatic oils); it’s also utilized in food goods.

The tree is uprooted in order to extract the wood as efficiently as possible; even the stump and root, which contain significant amounts of sandalwood oil, can be used. In order to extract the essential oil through steam distillation, the wood is first pulverized. India used to be its biggest producer, but, due to overharvesting, Australia has retained that position for the last few decades.

Topical Sandalwood Essential Oil’s Uses:

  • Dermatological therapy: Sandalwood oil is a dermatological therapeutic. The ease of topical application, good safety record, and recent development of pharmaceutical-grade sandalwood album oil lend credence to its wider application as the foundation for innovative dermatological treatments.
  • Physiological effects to psychological stress: A pilot study subjected 32 individuals to inhale sandalwood essential oil (and other oils) and found out that the oils “can alleviate the physiological reactions to psychological stress” which help in stress recovery.
  • Itchiness, skin tightness, and stress: Sandalwood oil helps alleviate itchy, tight, stressful areas on the skin—also called “pruritus.” For a pilot study with 64 women, aromatherapy massage was concluded as a successful method “to decrease pruritus and stress in older women.”


CedarwoodThe Elder Glory of the Mountain Conifers

History & Geography

If you’re aware of Biblical stories, cedarwood is a prosperous empire’s choice of furnishing material in palaces and temples—most famously recorded as one of King Solomon’s luxurious tastes in the Old Testament, circa 950 BCE. 

Its lesser-known stories are also powerful. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, cedarwood oil was also an ingredient in the mummification process in ancient Egypt. And in the current era, cedarwood oil is seen to have insecticidal effects against pests like houseflies, mosquitoes, pulse beetles, and tree bugs. 

Cedars are a wide range of species, and they are generally found in medium-altitude habitats in North Africa, the Mediterranean coastline, and the western Himalayas of the Indian subcontinent. The cedarwood essential oil is extracted from the tree’s bark i.e. after the bark chips undergo steam distillation.

Topical Cedarwood Essential Oil’s Uses:

  • Antibacterial and antioxidant effects: Cedarwood essential oil is also studied to have the effect of the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial in humans, which can be useful for people who are prone to slight infections due to their particular skin type.
  • Work stress relief: Japanese cedarwood essential oil, which also contains cedrol common to Indian deodars, were said to “affect the endocrine regulatory mechanism to facilitate stress responses” and “improve employees' mental health” in monotonous work cultures.  
  • Refractory acne: Sometimes, acne goes past the point of no return, and turns into a veritable horror show. The term is known as “refractory acne.” Cedarwood oil is said to be instrumental in the alleviation of refractory acne. 
  • Anxiety-busting aromatherapy massage: In another study with palliative care patients, where sandalwood oil was used as an aromatherapy massage, the results seemed “to support the notion that sandalwood oil is effective in reducing anxiety.”


Frankincense: More than just Christ’s Favorite Birthday Gift

History and Geography:

Like cedar, frankincense is famous from another Biblical story: it is one of the gifts the three Magi prostrate at the baby Jesus’s feet. It’s an oft-mentioned snippet in Christmastime plays and sermons.  

But, of course, the substance’s history goes much further back. In the Ancient Egyptian era, the “Ebers” papyrus recorded references to the resin’s use for respiratory and throat infections. In Antiquity, Pliny the Elder also mentions its uses against hemlock poisoning, while in China it has references in the seminal Mingyi Bielu manuscript. The Nabateans of the Middle East became the prime producers of frankincense for most of the time until the modern era.  

Frankincense is a hard gum-resin derived from Boswellia trees found in northern Africa, the Middle East, and India, and have been used in medicinal, religious, and perfumery contexts for the last few thousands of years. The resin can be altered into essential oils and much more. 

Topical Frankincense Essential Oil’s Uses:

  • Boosts energy levels: Frankincense essential oil used in aromatherapy was seen to boost energy levels among women who experienced post-COVID fatigue. 
  • Anti-inflammatory & antibacterial agent: Frankincense oil was studied as an anti-inflammatory agent in folk medicine in areas of Central India. Another study ascertained its antioxidant and antimicrobial powers against food-related pathogens.
  • Pain relief via aromatherapy massage: If you massage it onto your aching body, chances are you’ll find relief. Frankincense essential oil was applied to a control group of patients with chronic low back pain and was observed to relieve pain and reduce their disability.
  • Increases oxytocin which retains muscle mass: Aromatherapy with frankincense essential oils increases salivary oxytocin concentrations, which has links to stopping age-induced reduction in muscle mass of certain women.  


Rosa Damascena: Old Persia’s Panacea in Summer 

According to historians, the Rosa damascena species of rose, or the “Damask Rose,” originated in Persia thousands of years ago, and its damascena essential oil has been extracted since 700 CE. 

In the Indo-Persian tradition since 900 BCE, the petals were used as ingredients in cooking and as a deterrent to heat-related ailments in summer. This cooling, edible version of damask rose was called “gulkand.” 

Ayurvedic and Unani physicians prescribed gulkand as a tonic for summer-specific problems like excessive sweating, lethargy, sun-strokes, indigestion, inflamed eyes, and acidity. They discovered that it is thought to be a potent aphrodisiac and that it calms the nervous system. If that wasn't compelling enough, when taken frequently throughout the summer, it also functions as a fragrance by lowering body odor. 

Through antiquarian and medieval times until the 16th century, Persia (Iran) was the major producer of rose oil. Since then, Europeans took a liking to its many fragrant and medicinal properties, and cultivated their own versions of it. In the modern day, Bulgaria and Turkey are the main producers of essential oil. 

The processing of the flowers was done in small-scale operations with short harvesting periods. Laborers would have to pick freshly bloomed flowers before the sun dried the dew on them, preferably before 9 AM. The flowers were brought to water-filled stills, and the distillate was collected in metal tubes. This distillate was used to make the oil. 

Topical Damascena Essential Oil’s Uses:

  • Alleviates depression: Rose oil has been demonstrated in several clinical investigations to help alleviate depression symptoms. A small percentage of new mothers received depression treatment in a 2012 study. Aromatherapy was administered to one group in addition to standard medical care. Compared to women who just used conventional medicine, those who used aromatherapy had a marked improvement in their condition. 
  • Boosts sexual function: According to two studies, men and, to a lesser extent, women had enhanced sexual desire and satisfaction after breathing rose oil. In one study, antidepressant-using male individuals with major depressive disorder participated, whereas in the other, antidepressant-using female volunteers with the same disease participated. 
  • Salving menstrual discomfort: In a 2013 study, individuals experiencing menstruation pain were given belly massages as a means of easing their agony. Almond oil was the only carrier oil used for one group's massage; rose oil was added for the other group. After the massage, the group that used rose oil reported less pain from cramps than the group that used almond oil. 
  • Relieves migraine pain: It appears that the process of selecting patients who might benefit from topical R. damascena oil for the temporary reduction of migraine headache pain intensity is aided by syndrome differentiation.
  • Pain relieving powers: In a 2015 study, postoperative children inhaled either almond oil or rose oil. The patients in the group that inhaled rose oil reported a significant decrease in their pain levels. Researchers think the rose oil may have stimulated the brain to release endorphins, often called the “feel-good” hormone. Based on the outcome of this study, the researchers suggested that aromatherapy using rose oil could be an effective way to ease pain in patients who’ve had surgery.

Lavender: Flower Power since the Pyramid Hour 

The lavender flower was already a health motif as far back as Pharoah Tutankhamun’s rule 3,000 years ago. The perfumes and unguents in his tomb contained lavender for the afterlife. 

Lavender also later featured heavily in ancient Greek and Roman history. 

The Greek military doctor Dioscordes used to collect medicinal plants and record their properties in his book called “De Materia Medica.” He noted that consuming lavender solved headaches, indigestion, and sore throats. Using it topically meant you could clean wounds, burns, and skin ailments. Pliny the Elder wrote that it cured insect bites, jaundice, upset stomachs, kidney difficulties, menstruation issues, and dropsy. 

Lavender was also used in bathing and was known to the ancient Romans for its antibacterial and therapeutic properties as well as its ability to repel insects. It was carried by Roman troops on campaigns to treat battlefield injuries. The floor was covered in lavender, which fumigated the sick rooms and to sweeten the air—it was also used as incense for religious ceremonies.

It is native to the western Mediterranean and other mountains in northern Spain. It is the herbaceous perennial plant that looks very similar to rosemary. 

Topical Lavender Essential Oil’s Uses:

  • Aids in pain relief: Lavender oil has a reliable pain-relieving mechanism. A 2016 review even found that aromatherapy was effective at reducing pain, when combined with conventional treatments.
  • Solving anxiety issues: Lavender essential oil is one of the few over-the-counter medications for generalized anxiety disorder that has successfully passed the rigorous evaluation criteria of scientific research. Comparable to traditional anxiety medications, lavender has been shown in controlled trials to encourage serenity and reduce anxiety or associated restlessness in a variety of contexts. It was also said to reduce anxiety in nurses in conjunction with music therapy.

And that covers our monthly educational piece on essential oil’s contribution to stress relief. 

With such a historical repository of essential oils behind your back, stress is only a temporary scene in the play of life! 


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