Recent research finds evidence that orange essential oil reduces fear and anxiety, diminishes immune system markers of stress in mice and may help alleviate PTSD, offering a nonpharmaceutical option.
Essential oils are aromatic compounds produced naturally by plants. Orange essential oil is typically extracted from the peel of the orange fruit. People use essential oils for therapeutic purposes by diffusing them into the air, applying them to the skin or ingesting them in foods or beverages.
About 8 percent of people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, yet treatments for this debilitating condition remain limited. Cassandra Moshfegh is research assistant in Paul Marvar’s laboratory at the George Washington University and she presented this research at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting during the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting held April 22-26 in Chicago.
Relative to pharmaceuticals, essential oils are much more economical and do not have adverse side effects. The orange essential plant oil showed a significant effect on the behavioral response in our study mice. This is promising, because it shows that passively inhaling this essential oil could potentially assuage PTSD symptoms in humans.
The researchers tested the effects of passive inhalation of orange essential oil using Pavlovian Fear conditioning, a behavioral mouse model used to study the formation, storage and expression of fear memories as a model for PTSD.
Mice exposed to orange essential oil showed a significant reduction in freezing/fear behavior. They also showed significant differences in the types of immune cells present after fear conditioning. The immune system contributes to the inflammation associated with chronic stress and fear, so immune cells are a marker of the biochemical pathways involved in PTSD.
Preliminary results point to differences in the gene expression in the brain between the mice that were exposed to essential oil and those that were not, hinting at a potential mechanism to explain the behavioral results.
Moshfegh said further studies would be needed to understand the specific effects of orange essential oil in the brain and nervous system and shed light on how these effects might help to reduce fear, anxiety and stress in people with PTSD.
Experimental Biology is an annual meeting comprised of more than 14,000 scientists and exhibitors from six host societies and multiple guest societies. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchange among scientists from across the U.S. and the world who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research.
The American Physiological Society (APS) is a nonprofit organization devoted to fostering education, scientific research and dissemination of information in the physiological sciences. The Society was founded in 1887 and today represents more than 11,000 members and publishes 14 peer-reviewed journals.
Here is a link to the press release issued by Experimental Biology
Here is a link to the actual session abstract – Effects of Essential Oil on Fear Memory and the Immune Response: A Potential Alternative Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)
The application of orange essential oil has other supporting evidence for anxiety:
Aromatherapy is a noninvasive and effective method to help women overcome their anxiety during labor. Orange scent can be useful in childbirth units to help women who are experiencing stress in labor.
It seems that the use of aromatherapy with natural essential oil of orange could reduce salivary cortisol and pulse rate due to child anxiety state.
Although more studies are needed to find out the clinical relevance of aromatherapy for anxiety disorders, the present results indicate an acute anxiolytic [anxiety-reducing] activity of sweet orange aroma, giving some scientific support to its use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.
Based on this we can see that essential oils have a valuable place when it comes to anxiety and stress relief and even PTSD. I do consider aromatherapy to be one of many tools of a comprehensive approach that includes dietary changes (like no gluten, no sugar, no caffeine, eating for blood sugar balance etc.) and addressing biochemical and nutritional imbalances (like low zinc, low omega-3s, alterations in cortisol and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, low GABA and/or low serotonin with targeted individual amino acids, low vitamin D, dysbiosis and the microbiome etc.). Research is now showing that many of these factors may play a role in PTSD (making you more susceptible and also enhancing healing) as well as anxiety.
Have you used orange essential oil to help with your anxiety, fears or even PTSD? What is your favorite way to use it?
If you’re a practitioner do you used this essential oil with clients or patients?