I’m a nut for aromatherapy. After a particularly hard day, there are few things that I enjoy more than a hot soak in a lavender-laced bubble bath, followed by a soothing peppermint-oil massage. Because I have a severe anxiety disorder, aromatherapy is truly medicine for me, and can help me to reduce symptoms like heart palpitations, panic-responses and insomnia. My absolute favorite aromatherapy oil for anxiety is sandalwood — which, especially when combined with lavender or other soothing oils, can significantly reduce my symptoms of anxiety. Here are a few ways that sandalwood oil helps people with anxiety disorders.
1. Sandalwood oil simply smells good. Almost any pleasant-smelling oil possesses some benefit for mood disturbances and anxiety symptoms. For some time, the mainstream medical establishment attributed almost all the effects of aromatherapy to simply smelling good. We now know that the medicinal benefits of sandalwood for anxiety go beyond that, but it helps to some degree by simply offering a pleasant aroma.
2. When combined with massage, sandalwood oil can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. One study examined the effect of sandalwood oil massages on patients with terminal illnesses — a group that, for obvious reasons, can be very prone to severe anxiety. The authors of the study found that the patients who received sandalwood oil massages had fewer anxiety symptoms than those who received massages with non-fragrant oils. However, larger studies are needed to fully demonstrate the validity of these results.
3. Sandalwood oil can help you sleep. Insomnia and anxiety are often comorbid conditions, meaning that they tend to occur alongside one another. When I’m having significantly difficulty sleeping, a whiff of sandalwood oil is often all it takes to help me drift into dreamland. At least one study found that rats have a similar reaction. Upon inhaling the fragrant compounds in sandalwood, rats slept more immediately and more deeply. Combine sandalwood oil with chamomile, lavender, bergamot, or vanilla oils for a synergistic effect.
4. Sandalwood oil can act as a meditation tool and ritual. As much as we tend to pooh-pooh the placebo effect, it’s important to remember that it is a huge part of why medicines work. We are instantly soothed by the very act of acknowledging a certain symptom and addressing it. When you tell yourself, “I’m having anxiety problems right now,” and respond by smelling sandalwood oil, the act of using the sandalwood oil can itself become medicinal. By incorporating it into other calming, meditative rituals, sandalwood oil can drastically ease anxiety symptoms.
Although generally quite safe and associated with few side effects, sandalwood aromatherapy isn’t for everyone. If you have asthma, skin disease, severe allergies, or chemical sensitivities, talk to your primary care provider before using any form of aromatherapy. If you get the go-ahead from your practitioner, you may find that sandalwood oil is tremendously beneficial for easing your anxiety.