With two out of every five adults now making their emotional wellbeing more of a priority, is it time you discovered the power of plants?
The past two years have been a testing time for all of us – physically and mentally – but if one positive has arisen, it’s that 75% of us now feel empowered to look after our mental wellbeing, with over half believing that plants have a positive impact on our mental health.
The latest real-world research from Puressentiel – the brains behind the evidence-backed plant-based health products for everyday wellness needs – also found that 76% of adults believe the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.
Although the state of our mind has always been important – after all, it forms a huge part of our overall health – it was during the global pandemic of COVID-19 that mental health really came into its own, with a third of young adults reporting a decline in their mental health; and depression in over-50s, doubling.
But now, with mental health moving further up our agenda, it’s important to implement healthy, sustainable habits. Only 6% of respondents in the Puressential real-world poll said they turned to essential oils to support their mental wellbeing, and only 9% use herbal or natural products. But there are three huge ways that evidence-backed, natural remedies borne out of nature can help our minds…
#1. Lavender for sleep
A staggering 93% of adults experience insomnia at some time according to the latest research from Puressentiel, with stress, anxiety and being unable to switch off the most likely reasons as to why we’re kept awake. Almost half say this is a regular occurrence, with women more likely to experience issues; 52% compared to 43% of men.
Sleep, the glue that essentially holds us all together, can have a huge impact on our mood and overall wellbeing.
Sleep scientist Professor Jason Ellis, Professor from Puressentiel explains, that “sleep is incredibly important for our mental health. A recent study reported that people who averaged less than six hours of sleep a night are 2.5 times more likely to experience frequent mental distress.
“But as most of us know from experience, even low levels of sleep disruption can undermine our cognitive performance and wellbeing. Poor sleep patterns lead to poor performance, and this sets up a toxic cycle of tiredness impacting our ability to cope, which gives rise to low self-esteem, adds to our anxiety and stress — and makes it even more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.”
Lack of sleep can also result in our body releasing more of the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as hunger hormones, leaving us with cravings for high-sugar foods, which further heighten our cortisol level.
GP Dr Nisa Aslam from Puressentiel expert hub points out that poor-quality diets increase the risk of obesity. “More recent research around the gut-brain axis and role of friendly bacteria confirms these poor food choices can also have a profound impact on our mood.”
Along with good sleep hygiene, which involves winding down before bed and removing yourself from technology at least 30 minutes before hitting the pillow, incorporating plants into your bedtime regime can help.
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Puressentiel’s Rest & Relax range of sweet sleep solutions brings together the calming properties of 12 essential oils including lavender, a plant that 57% of those surveyed have used in the past to help them unwind or get to sleep.
Dr Mason, one of the authors of the Archives of Environmental Sciences & Environmental Toxicology evidence review explains: “Lavender and lavandin essential oils are used for their sedative effects, causing drowsiness and calmness in people who are agitated.” Other sleep-boosting plants include marjoram, part of the mint family, which contains several compounds that can aid sleep.
“These include calming linalyl acetate and linalool – one of the bioactive in lavender -which stabilises the cardiovascular system,” says natural health expert and researcher, Dr Tim Bond from Puressentiel. Sandalwood can also help with sleep as it’s rich in alpha- and beta-santalol compounds, which have recognised sedative effects.
#2. Arnica for relieving pain
Research has estimated that chronic pain increases the risk of depression by 86% and the misuse of painkillers, including addictive opioids, by 31%. So it’s important that if you’re suffering from pain, you take action to sort it out.
“Pain often disrupts sleep and undermines our ability, and motivation, to stay active,” says Dr Tim Bond who also adds that impaired sleep increases the odds of experiencing depression and weight gain.
The fact that pain can also get in the way of daily movement and exercise, can further worsen any mental health issues as exercise is famed for its mood-boosting qualities. Real-world research from Puressentiel reveals that an impressive 85% of respondents are aware of exercise’s mood-boosting qualities, however only a third of adults do at least 15 minutes of exercise every day.
Dr Nisa Aslam says: “If you are carrying an injury, rest and do what you can to reduce inflammation and pain and be sure to warm up properly once you get back to your previous performance levels.”
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Puressentiel’s Muscles & Joints range uses the power of plants and essential oils to help ease muscle aches and pains. Arnica has long been used to relieve bruising and inflammation, with a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, confirming that a 20% arnica topical treatment significantly reduced laser-induced bruising. Another study showed that using arnica gel for six weeks was as effective as a 5% ibuprofen cream for the relief of osteoarthritis.
Other useful plants renowned for their pain-relief properties include clove, thanks to its analgesic and relaxant properties, as well as eucalyptus, which Dr Tim Bond describes as being an ‘essential oil star’. “It provides muscle support as well as helping to relieve anxiety, stress and sleep disorders.”
#3. Eucalyptus for better breathing
Although age does play a part in our breathing – with our lung capacity diminishing from around our mid-twenties – researcher and co-author, Dr Pamela Mason reveals that our lungs are also highly susceptible to damage from pollutants and infectious agents at any time of life. She adds: “As many people who have had bronchitis, pneumonia or Covid-19 will know, these infections can lead to many months of breathlessness, and lung function can be permanently impaired.”
Regular exercise and a reduction in our exposure to irritants and pollutants such as car fumes and even indoor mould can slow down the process of lung function changes, according to Dr Tim Bond.
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Puressentiel’s Purifying Air Spray range synergistically combines 41 essential oils. It’s been proven to combat three common triggers for respiratory symptoms and poor air quality – airborne bacteria, fungal spores, and house-dust mites.
Eucalyptus, one of the key essential oils in Puressentiel’s Purifying Air range, is pretty much a respiratory all-rounder thanks to its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, expectorant, anti-catarrhal, mucolytic, antitussive, decongestant, and immuno-modulatory activity. Other useful essential oils for breathing include cajeput, which produces an essential oil with potent antimicrobial properties, as well as Niaouli, which has many of the same antimicrobial properties as tea tree and eucalyptus.
“It has a clinically proven germicidal action and is a primary ingredient of Gomenol, a branded medicine used to treat upper respiratory tract and bronchial congestion,” explains Dr Tim Bond. He adds: “Scots pine, another useful plant, has antibacterial and antifungal activity and has been shown to combat inflammation.