Essential oils can lower heart rate and blood pressure, but only if the exposure is less than 60 minutes, research finds.
Next time you go to a health spa for stress relief, make sure you aren’t exposed for longer than an hour to aromatic essential oils as the scents can have the reverse effect.
Essential oils are essences from plants and often used in aromatherapy to reduce anxiety, improve moods, treat headaches and improve skin conditions.
A study has found that short-term exposure to essential oils is an effective way to reduce blood pressure and heart rate as well as improve relaxation.
However, the downside is that being exposed for longer than an hour will reverse the beneficial effects and can do harm to heart health.
The study recruited one hundred young healthy non-smoking spa workers to monitor their resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure during each exposure.
Participants were exposed for two hours to bergamot essential oil that was released from an ultrasonic aroma diffuser.
Results showed that subjects’ heart rate and blood pressure was decreased between 15 and 60 minutes after exposure to the aroma.
The duration of exposure was significantly linked to these two cardiovascular risk factors.
Dr Kai-Jen Chuang, the study’s first author, said:
“Our results suggest that exposure to essential oil for 1 hour would be effective in reducing heart rate and blood pressure.
However, the most interesting finding of our study is that exposure to essential oil for over an hour was associated with elevated blood pressure and heart rate.”
For example, after 45 minutes exposure there was a reduction of 2.10 mmHg in average systolic blood pressure (SBP) and 2.21 beats per minute for heart rate.
Whereas at 60 minutes the SBP reduction had changed to only 0.89 mmHg and 0.82 beats per minute for heart rate.
As the time duration to aromatherapy exposure was increased the situation was reversed.
For example, after 120 minutes the average systolic blood pressure went up by 2.19 mmHg and the heart rate was increased by 1.70 beats per minute.
The authors, concluded:
“Prolonged exposure for longer than 1 hour to essential oils may be harmful to cardiovascular health in young, healthy subjects.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (Chuang et al., 2012).