When it comes to the leading of cause of death in the United States, cardiovascular disease trumps all others. And that’s true for both men and women. Heart disease kills 610,000 people in the United States every year — that’s roughly 1 of every 4 deaths.
Reducing your risk of heart disease involves making simple changes to your lifestyle, like quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol, smart eating habits, daily exercise, and monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Is aromatherapy good for your heart?
Used medicinally for centuries, essential oils are fragrant compounds derived mainly from distilling flowers, leaves, wood, and plant seeds.
Essential oils are meant to be inhaled or diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin. Do not apply essential oils directly to the skin. Do not take ingest essential oils. Some are toxic.
Most researchers agree that there is no conclusive evidence that aromatherapy has any therapeutic effects on people with heart disease, but there is some evidence that aromatherapy can lower anxiety and stress, which are risk factors for high blood pressure. A 2012 study found that aromatherapy using essential oils can lower blood pressure through relaxation.
However, it’s worth noting that only short bursts of aromatherapy are helpful. According to the same study, exposure that lasts for over an hour has the opposite effect.
If you’d like to try using essential oils to lower your heart disease risk, these are some of your best bets:
This “royal herb” pops up in pesto, soup, and on pizza. It packs a solid dose of vitamin K and magnesium. In addition, extract from basil leaves shows potential for lowering your levels of bad cholesterol, otherwise known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein). LDL plays a major role in atherosclerosis by depositing fat molecules along artery walls.
Maintaining your blood sugar levels not only helps prevent diabetes, but heart disease as well. That’s because unregulated high blood glucose can increase the amount of plaque that forms on your artery walls. Research shows that cassia flower extract reduces blood glucose levels while increasing plasma insulin.
Research from Korea shows that oil vapors from the white-pink flowers of this wide-leafed shrub are effective at decreasing systolic blood pressure (that top number in a blood pressure reading).
Stress and anxiety have a direct effect on blood pressure and overall heart health. Consider cypress oil which, when used in aromatherapy massage, provides short-term relaxation, ease, and relief from fatigue.
Commonly associated with cold relief products like cough drops, eucalyptus is also good for your heart. According to one study, inhaling air infused with eucalyptus oil can significantly lower your blood pressure.
A staple of Asian cuisine, mildly sweet smelling ginger not only possesses antioxidant properties and helps with nausea, but drinking ginger extract in water also shows promise in inhibiting LDL.
Perhaps not as recognizable as others on this list, helichrysum, with its reedy flowers, came through in a study that focused on its cardiovascular effects. It proved to be another potential option for managing high blood pressure.
A longtime fixture of backyard gardens, this blue-violet flower finds its way into perfumes, soaps, and is even relied on to ward off mosquitos. Research into the scent of lavender oil found that it produces an overall calm and relaxed mood in those inhaling it.
When inhaled, the oil from this Mediterranean herb (and close relative of oregano) lowers blood pressure. It relaxes blood vessels by rousing the parasympathetic nervous system, which improves the flow of blood.
In 2013, researchers took a look at what effect inhaling the scent of this native Southeast Asian tree flower would have on a group of healthy men. They reported that the fragrance had something of a sedative response, and lowered both their heart rate and blood pressure.