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Citrus oils are well known for their antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anxiolytic, and anticonvulsant effects. This is largely due to their primary constituent, Limonene. Although each essential oil varies chemically, all have high amounts of limonene, and therefore they act similarly to one another, making them somewhat interchangeable.
Interestingly, citrus oils have been well documented for their ability to help reduce stress and anxiety. Therefore if you tend to get some winter blues, here are some great reasons to add your favorite citrus oil to your diffuser!
How do they work?
Inhalation alone is more than sufficient to exhibit the benefits citrus essential oils have to deliver, especially with stress and anxiety. In fact, most studies reported the results based on diffusion of citrus essential oils into the air for the tested participants. This is because citrus oil odor particles are inhaled through either the nasal cavity or the lungs. When passing through the nasal cavity, odor particles reach the olfactory bulb, and are then able to pass the blood-brain barrier into the blood, and reach the brain. Once there, they can elicit a direct effect on the brain and central nervous system, ultimately affecting our mood other physical systems. Similarly, when inhaled through the lungs, odor particles are able to reach the bloodstream through interaction with alveoli in the lungs. Alveoli are little air sacs in the lungs that allow for rapid gas exchange, and ultimately delivering oxygen and other inhaled particles into our bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, odor particles make their way to the brain and ultimately affect the central nervous system. Anyway, you look at it, diffusion is the way to go for these oils!
What proof do we have?
Animal and human studies alike have indicated the mood-boosting effects elicited by citrus oils.
Participants were exposed to three exposures for fifteen minutes: a control, diffused water, and diffused bergamot. After each exposure, salivary samples were taken and the questionnaire was filled out. The results of the study illustrated that cortisol levels significantly decreased after bergamot exposure, indicating lower stress levels. They believed limonene, the primary constituent of bergamot, is able to elicit a lowered stress response.
Another study looked at bergamot as a means to lower anxiety for women about to go into labor. Anxiety is the most common response in labor with 80% of women having a pre-existing anxiety disorder. Two groups (63 women in each group) were placed in a control or treatment group. The treatment group was exposed to diffused bergamot essential oil prior to labor, where the control group was not. Results reported that the aromatherapy treated group exhibited lower levels of anxiety than the control and no adverse birth effects on the fetus.
Aside from bergamot, orange essential oil has also been reported to significantly decrease anxiety in female patients and children.
Jafarzadehm et al. explored the effects of orange essential oil on children and stress. A group of 30 healthy children between the ages of 6-9 years old about to undergo dental work were placed into a treatment group and control group. The treatment group exposed children to orange essential oil prior to dental treatment and salivary samples were obtained to measure cortisol levels. Results indicated that the children exposed to orange essential oil had lower cortisol levels, in which they believed was due to the action of limonene.
Which oil is right for me?
From all the literature that is available (which far exceeds those in this post), it all boils down to the presence of limonene. Despite there being more documented research of bergamot and orange in relation to anxiety, most articles conclude that limonene is the reason behind the anti-anxiety and reduced stress levels exhibited in participants. Since all of our citrus oils contain high amounts of limonene, any, if not all, of our citrus oils can be used for anxiety reduction. All the more reason to stock up on your favorite citrus oil or citrus blend.*