There are four words that top my list of New Year’s resolutions: essential oils, blood pressure. This may seem like an odd comination to you, so let me explain.
This year I’m takng extra steps to keep a close watch on my blood pressure to make sure it remains optimal — no scary highs that could be signaling heart problems or even lead to stroke.
This is a major resolution for me because the history of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in my family is long, involved and unfortunately very deadly.
Another resolution is to work on my stress levels. You know how us ‘type A’ personalities can be…
Well, I was excited to come across information indicating that one of my favorite things for decreasing stress — aromatherapy — may also be a beneficial tool for healthier blood pressure.
I knew I had to share it with you.
Exploring the essential oils blood pressure connection
Aromatherapy has long been used for stress relief and associated with healing properties. And, exposure to the essential oil vapors from fragrant candles has even been found to reduce test-taking anxiety among nursing school students.
This led researchers at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan to theorize that the stress relief provided by the natural scents could serve to lower blood pressure and heart rate and possibly prevent cardiovascular problems.
The study was performed on 100 healthy men and women once a week for three weeks.
Each volunteer was exposed to the vapors of essential oils released from an ultrasonic ionizer for two hours. During this time, their resting heart rate and blood pressure was monitored.
Results showed (after adjusting for all other factors) that the room’s level of essential oils was significantly associated with reduced blood pressure and heart rate for between 15 and 60 minutes after the start of exposure.
However, after exposure for more than 1 hour the essential oils were associated with an increased blood pressure and heart rate.
In other words, using essential oils in a diffuser could improve both your blood pressure and your heart rate but only if used for less than an hour at a time.
So, what was this magic essential oil that the researchers used?
100 percent pure bergamot essential oil.
Bergamot is a plant that produces a type of citrus fruit – basically a hybrid between a sour orange and lemon. You may be more familiar with the scent than you know as it’s commonly used in black tea such as Earl Grey.
Still unsure whether or not this oil could actually be powerful enough to help your heart?
Another study which combined the effects of bergamot with lavender essential oil found that compared with the placebo, the blended essential oil caused significant decreases of pulse rate and blood pressure. And, at the emotional level, subjects in the blended essential oil group rated themselves as “more calm” and “more relaxed” than subjects in the control group.
You may also want to read about bergamot’s effect on cholesterol.
Choosing your essential oils
Clearly, whether you choose to use bergamot oil alone or in combination with lavender oil, these scents could carry some important heart-healthy benefits.
However, it’s important that you know how to pick the highest quality oil…
In picking your essential oil, here are three things to look for:
- Organic label — Since, like any other plant, the flowers and leaves used to make essential oils may be grown with or without pesticides, it’s important to look for an organic brand to avoid exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
- Cost — Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations. Since it can take a large amount of plant matter to produce even a small amount of oil, many essential oils can be costly. If you see a brand that is much less than others, it could be because they are diluting the oil with a cheaper alternative.
- Testing — Look for gas chromatography and mass spectrometry tests, or GC/MS testing, to ensure the quality of the essential oil you choose. Many of essential oil vendors provide batch-specific GC/MS reports on their websites or upon request.
But, don’t stop at diffusing essential oils to improve your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart problems.
Other tips to optimize your blood pressure include:
- Lose any excess weight — Dropping those extra pounds around your waistline can improve your blood pressure significantly. Use 2018 to lose weight, get in shape and be heart healthy.
- Go decaf — Researchers from Duke University Medical Center found that just 3, 8-ounce cups of java per day can increase your blood pressure by up to 4-mmhg (or millimeter of mercury), which will keep your blood pressure soaring well past bedtime. For the New Year, make a plan to choose decaffeinated beverages instead.
- Exercise — The best thing you can do for a soaring blood pressure is to get physically active — at least 30 minutes per day, every day. That could include walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga or even gardening.
- Supplement — Add in heart healthy supplements like vitamin K2 to help promote healthy blood flow by helping calcium go where it needs to, instead of your arteries; grape seed extract to activate nitric oxide in the lining of blood vessels to relax arteries; and green tea extract to support heart health.
Short-term exposure to essential oils lowers blood pressure and heart rate… but only when exposure is less than one hour — European Society of Cardiology (ESC)
Aroma-therapeutic effects of massage blended essential oils on humans — Natural Product Communications
10 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure — Ahdy Ghaneemah