4 soothing scents to de-stress

Published on November 01 2011 - 3:38 PM
4 soothing scents to de-stress
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The holidays are just around the corner and although it’s supposed to be joyful, it can also be a stressful time for many people (myself included). As the associate nutrition editor at EatingWell Magazine and a registered dietitian, I know that when times get tough it can be tempting to let healthy habits slip. But luckily there are healthier ways to cope. In the November/December issue of EatingWell Magazine, writers Amy Paturel and Patricia Bannan report on 7 natural stress busters, including these 4 scents you can use to de-stress. (I love that there are foods that can help relax you just by sniffing them!) So next time you start feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and inhale one of these calming scents:

1. Inhale lavender. In one 2010 study, British researchers randomly assigned 340 dental patients to one of two groups. In the first, they diffused lavender oil with a ceramic candle warmer before the start of morning and afternoon clinics. With the second group the lavender oil was replaced with water. The group exposed to the lavender scent reported significantly lower anxiety levels. And if it works during dental appointments, who’s to say it can’t work during other stressful times?

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2. Cut into a coconut. When you’re stressed, the scent of coconut may blunt your natural “fight or flight” response, slowing your heart rate. People who breathed in coconut fragrance in a small pilot study at Columbia University saw their blood pressure recover more quickly after a challenging task. (Check out these 8 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally.) The researchers speculate that inhaling a pleasant scent enhances alertness while soothing our response to stress.

3. Sniff an apple. If you like the smell of green apples, embracing their aroma may help alleviate headaches, according to preliminary research. In one small study, people with chronic migraines reported some pain relief after inhaling green-apple fragrance at the start of a headache. (If you eat the apple, you could enjoy these 5 Surprising Health Benefits of Apples.)

4. Pack some peppermint. Peppermint may keep you from overindulging. When researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia evaluated hunger levels of peppermint sniffers versus nonsniffers, they found that those who wafted peppermint oil under their nose every two hours rated their hunger level lower, experienced fewer cravings and ate significantly less. “While the greatest effect from peppermint comes through inhaling the scent, peppermint gum, mints and flavored water have been found to produce similar effects,” says Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., lead researcher and associate professor of psychology.

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Kerri-Ann Jennings is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University.