Essential Oil Lowers Blood Pressure

Healthnotes Newswire (October 5, 2006)—Massaging the skin with oil containing the essential oil ylang-ylang is relaxing and lowers blood pressure, according to new research.

“Massage with essential oils is used increasingly for the relief of various symptoms in patients,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Tanapee Hongratanaworakit of the Faculty of Pharmacy at Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok, Thailand. “But scientific evaluation of the effects of transdermal administration of fragrance is rather scarce.”

Ylang-ylang oil comes from the flower of the cananga tree (Cananga odorata). The name derives from ilang-ilang, the plant’s name in Tagalog, one of the main languages of the Republic of the Philippines. Used in aromatherapy for high blood pressure and skin problems and as an aphrodisiac, it has a pleasant odor and is widely used in perfumes and fragrances.

Forty healthy volunteers in the study rubbed 1 ml (about 20 drops) of ylang-ylang essential oil (20%) in a sweet almond oil base over their abdomens for 5 minutes. In the control group, sweet almond oil with no ylang-ylang oil was used. The abdominal area was covered with plastic film to prevent evaporation. Both groups breathed pure air by mask to prevent them from smelling the oil’s fragrance during application. One session consisted of two trials of 20 minutes each.

During the trials, the people were monitored for physiological changes (breathing rate, pulse rate, blood pressure, and skin temperature) and behavioral changes (relaxation, vigor, calmness, attentiveness, mood, and alertness).

Those receiving ylang-ylang oil experienced significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared with their readings at the start of the study. In contrast, the systolic blood pressure of those in the control group went up. (Systolic blood pressure is the upper number on the blood pressure reading.) Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number on the blood pressure reading) also went up in the control, but to a lesser degree in the ylang-ylang group. No other significant physiological effects were observed.

Those in the ylang-ylang group also had significantly increased sense of calmness whereas no such improvement was noted in the control group. By the end of the second trial, members of the ylang-ylang group also had significantly greater sense of relaxation. No effects on alertness, attentiveness, mood, or vigor were seen.

“These results demonstrate that not only is ylang-ylang oil absorbed through the skin, but that it has relaxing effects in the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure and stress reactions,” said Dr. Hongratanaworakit. “This is an indication that the oil might be useful in relieving hypertension and stress.”

(Phytother Res 2006;20:758–63)

Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.

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