Flower Power - Using flowers for stress-relief
There is something so joyful about looking at flowers. Whether it’s a bunch of wild flowers haphazardly presented to you by a child, a carefully tended garden bursting into bloom or an occasional pop of colour seen amongst fields of green, flowers can’t help but make us smile. They have a positive effect on our mood and behaviour and this was highlighted by a study at Rutgers University which found that flowers have the ability to make a room or space seem more inviting, which in turn encourages us to be more sociable and want to interact with others more. Researchers also found that recipients of a bouquet reported greater satisfaction with life and lower levels of anxiety. No wonder we love buying and receiving flowers!
The scent or colour of the flower can evoke memories, while looking at the simple but complex structure of a bloom can fill us with awe. Floral patterns appear in our summer wardrobes and flowers pack a punch when added to our favourite beauty products: they add scent but they also add health benefits to the skin.
As a Medical Herbalist and Aromatherapy Massage Therapist, I love using flowers both inside and out to boost physical and emotional health. Teas and tinctures are a great way to take herbs internally, but essential oils should only be used externally unless prescribed by a practitioner. Here is my pick of the bunch:
Rose (Rosa damascena) has a balancing effect. Taken internally it has a restorative effect on the nervous system. It lifts mood and calms nerves, soothing anger and irritability. It eases emotions and is used in grief and heartbreak. Rose oil is widely used in perfumes and is celebrated for its soothing and uplifting aroma.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is derived from the Latin word lavare meaning to wash and was used to scent the water for bathing by the Romans and Greeks. Internally it has a sedative effect and makes a relaxing night-time tea to aid sleep. The essential oil gently inhaled or applied soothes physical and mental exhaustion and is particularly useful in nervous headaches and migraines.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) helps to reduce stress by relieving an overactive, restless mind. Studies show it might help relieve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia by boosting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which may improve relaxation and sleep. I like to mix it with oats and skullcap to relieve stress.
Next time you stop to admire or smell a flower, consider what other hidden medicinal uses it might just have.
Please consult with your herbalist or health practitioner before using any herbs/supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, on medication or have underlying health issues.
Nikki Biddiss BSc (Hons), MNIMH is a Medical Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Cognitive Coach. She co-owns and runs a herbal clinic and shop, Napiers the Herbalists in Glasgow, 0141 339 5859. Follow Napiers Glasgow on Instagram and Facebook.