The circulatory system is an organ system that passes nutrients (such as amino acids, electrolytes and lymph), oxygen, hormones, blood cells, etc. to and from cells in the body to help fight diseases and help stabilize body temperature and pH to maintain homeostasis. The circulatory system is of such great importance it is often referred to as 'the lifeline of the body'. The circulatory system includes the blood, heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure (hypertension), vascular diseases, and atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease) and stroke are just a few of the common problems associated with this system.
Essential oils commonly recommended to support circulation include: Cypress, helichrysum, grapefruit, ocotea, tarragon, basil, ylang ylang, and rosemary.
Cypress improves circulation and strengthens blood capillaries. One study showed improved hair growth in balding individuals that may be attributed to improved circulation. (Sagorchev) Interesting note: Cypress comes from a Greek word sempervivens, which means “live forever.” Also of interest, any of the oils that are from trees such as palo santo, cedarwood, ylang ylang and frankincense, are believed to provide stabilization, grounding and security to us, physically and emotionally.
Helichrysum is believed to have important liver supportive constituents. (Sun) The liver is highly significant to circulation as it filters and cleans the blood. Helichrysum contains high amounts of regenerative di-ketones making it excellent applied directly to wounds. It also contains high levels of antioxidants, Neryl Acetate which is an anti-spasmodic / muscle relaxant constituent, and anti-inflammatory constituents. Helichrysum has also been studied for regeneration of nerves, improving skin conditions, and reducing inflammation while speeding healing. (Sala)
Grapefruit is very rich in limonenes. Japanese researchers show that smelling grapefruit essential oil (due to the high limonene content) enhances sympathetic nerve activities resulting in reduced blood pressured, increased body temperature, and decreased appetite. (Tanida) Lavender oil showed similar benefits (reduced blood pressure, increased body temperature and reduced appetite) in another study by the same research group. (Tanida)
Grapefruit is very popular among individuals trying to lose weight and for good reason. Japanese researchers have also shown that the scent of grapefruit oil affects autonomic nerves, enhances fat burning through the liver, and reduces appetite and body weight.
Ocotea is a natural antiplatelet agent for individuals concerned about stroke or clot formation. In a study comparing 22 different oils, ocotea rated in the top 3 for most potent anti-platelet ability. (Ballabeni) Ocotea comes from an Ecuadorian tree, and has the highest level of alpha humulene of any Young Living oil. This compound helps aid the body's natural response to irritation and injury.
Tarragon (A. dracunculus) was also included in the Ballabeni study comparing 22 essential oils and also ranked in the top 3 for most potent anti-platelet ability. (Ballabeni) Tarragon is also commonly used to support the digestive system. Research also shows tarragon may be very helpful for type 2 diabetics due to its ability to improve carbohydrate metabolism and enhance insulin receptor signaling. (Wang) This is significant because many diabetic patients also have circulatory problems.
Basil essential oil also has natural antiplatelet activity beneficial to help prevent clot formation. (Tognolini)
Ylang ylang is usually associated with romance, but Korean researchers studied the effectiveness of aromatherapy using ylang ylang, lavender and lemon on blood pressure, heart rate, and aortic pulse of patients with high blood pressure. They found aromatherapy is effective in lowering systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nerve system activity. (Cha)
A similar Korean study in 2006 using lavender, ylang ylang, and bergamot found essential oils an effective intervention that reduces psychological stress responses, serum cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”), as well as the blood pressure of clients with essential hypertension. (Hwang)
Rosemary oil, applied topically improves local blood circulation and alleviates pain. (Sagorchev) It stimulates circulation to skin and scalp. Rosemary, like cypress also stimulates hair follicles and may promote hair growth in balding individuals. This may be due to improved circulation. (Lee) Rosemary oil also has a pronounced action on the brain, clearing the mind and aids the memory. It aids in prevention of mental exhaustion and stress. It also helps with headaches and migraines.
Ballabeni V, et al. Antiplatelet and antithrombotic activities of essential oil from wild Ocotea quixos (Lam.) Kosterm. (Lauraceae) calices from Amazonian Ecuador. Pharmacol Res. 2007 Jan;55(1):23-30.
Cha JH. et al. Effects of aromatherapy on changes in the autonomic nervous system, aortic pulse wave velocity and aortic augmentation index in patients with essential hypertension. J Korean Acad Nurs. 2010 Oct;40(5):705-13.
Hwang JH. The effects of the inhalation method using essential oils on blood pressure and stress responses of clients with essential hypertension. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2006 Dec;36(7):1123-34.
Lee GS, et al. The essential oils of Chamaecyparis obtusa promote hair growth through the induction of vascular endothelial growth factor gene. Fitoterapia. 2010 Jan;81(1):17-24
Sagorchev P, et al. Investigations into the specific effects of rosemary oil at the receptor level. Phytomedicine. 2010 Jul;17(8-9):693-7.
Author: Beth Ley Knotts, Ph. D.