An oil described as an adaptogen is an oil that is stimulating and relaxing at the same time – but how can that be?
An essential oil that is an adaptogen will instigate a reaction in the body that is appropriate to achieve a state of homeostasis or balance. The reactions affect the autonomic nervous system, the endocrine system, & even blood pressure, all through Aromatherapy! Certain pure, natural, essential oils can be found listed on both “relaxant” & “stimulant” lists, and this apparent contradiction can cause confusion unless you understand that these specific oils are adaptogens.
Adaptogenic herbs are plants with properties that exert a normalising influence on the body, neither over-stimulating nor inhibiting normal body function, but rather exerting a general balance. At the core of an adaptogen’s scope of actions is the ability to help the body cope more effectively with stress. Adaptogen essential oils are derived from these types of herbs, and therefore posses the power to both sedate & stimulate depending on the actions needed. Specifically, adaptogens recharge the adrenal glands which are the responders to stress & emotional changes. The adrenals, which cover the upper surface of each kidney, synthesize and store dopamine, norepinephrine & epinephrine. These compounds are responsible for the changes that occur during the fight-or-flight reaction. Since these adaptogens normalize the body, enabling energy to be used more productively when stressors are not physical threats, studies show they can also be used to enhance general health and performance!
Examples of some adaptogens:
Lavender – Its sedative actions have been known to alleviate palpitations, nervous tension, and to lower blood pressure. At the same time, Lavender has a stimulation effect for someone with depression, weak heart or shortness of breath.
Lemon works on the autonomic nervous system, acting as a sedative when needed, or as a tonic.
Peppermint & Spearmint are also essential oils that can be found listed on both “relaxant” & “stimulant” lists.
Definition of Adaptigen taken from The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple – by Dr. David Stewart (in Americal English, adaptogen is spelt with an ‘i’ – adaptigen!!
An oil or oil compound whose therapeutic action is such that it can increase a body function, reduce a body function or have no effect depending on the body’s needs. eg. an adaptigen could raise blood pressure, lower blood pressure or have no effect if one’s blood pressure were normal. The ability for essential oils to be adaptigens is because they possess homeostatic intelligence.
This reference is also taken from The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple – by Dr. David Stewart (p59)
Essential oils possess homeostatic intelligence. Homeostasis is that state where every vital biological process within a living organism is functioning as it should. It is a state of perfect wellness. Essential oils always work towards restoring and maintaining balance and homeostasis, first in the plants who create them, and then in the humans who apply them. To say that an essential oil works toward balance, and homeostasis means that the same oil can work in different directions depending on the needs of the plant or person. Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare) will kill hostile microbes while nurturing those that are friendly. Angelica oil (Angelica archangelica) can stimulate a uterus to contract or to relax depending on the need. Myrtle oil (Myrtus communis) is an adaptigen that can stimulate an increase or a decrease in thyroid activity depending on a person’s condition. Drugs are incapable of such intelligent discrimination and act only in pre-programmed directions, like robots, whether beneficial or not.