Do you often feel exhausted without apparent reason and despite getting enough sleep? The main cause of chronic low energy or chronic fatigue can be difficult to identify, as many health issues could cause it. Some people believe it’s due to adrenal fatigue. What is it? And how can natural remedies, such as essential oils, help you overcome it? Read on to find out.
- 1 Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms and Causes
- 2 Is Adrenal Fatigue a Real Medical Condition?
- 3 Some of The Best Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal Fatigue: Symptoms and Causes
Hypoadrenia, sub-clinical hypoadrenia, non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, adrenal apathy, and neurasthenia—these are just some of the names adrenal fatigue has been called over the past decades. It was Dr. James Wilson, a naturopath and alternative medicine expert, who coined the term “adrenal fatigue” back in 1998. 1 He defined it as a collection of symptoms, which happen when the adrenal glands are not functioning at the expected level.
What’s the major cause of adrenal fatigue? Chronic stress—like chronic sleep deprivation, overcoming the death of a loved one, or having a stressful job—is strongly linked with certain signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
The common belief is that it starts when your body is overwhelmed by stress. Our adrenal glands—tiny, triangle-shaped glands that sit on top of each kidney—produce several hormones, such as cortisol, to deal with stress. When you’re under a lot of stress for too long, your adrenal glands are unable to cope and release the right amount of cortisol into your bloodstream. Thus, you start to feel the symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
The signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue are usually non-specific and common. This simply means many disorders and diseases share the same signs and symptoms, such as:
- Brain fog (characterized by confusion, poor concentration, forgetfulness, and reduced mental clarity)
- Difficulty falling asleep at night or getting out of bed in the morning
- Cravings for salty and sugary foods and caffeinated drinks
Is Adrenal Fatigue a Real Medical Condition?
If you’ll ask naturopathic or alternative medicine doctors, they’d probably say it is. For mainstream doctors, adrenal fatigue is nonexistent. However, they do accept adrenal insufficiency as a real medical condition.
Adrenal insufficiency, also called as Addison’s disease, happens when the adrenal glands don’t make enough steroid hormones, particularly cortisol. This may be due to damaged adrenal glands or a malfunctioning pituitary gland, the pea-sized “master gland” that’s found in the brain. If left untreated, it could progress to Addisonian crisis, a life-threatening medical condition.
People who are at risk for adrenal insufficiency 2:
- Those who are taking blood thinners (also called anticoagulants)
- Those who had a surgical removal of their adrenal glands
- Those who are suffering from a chronic infection, such as tuberculosis
- Those who have an autoimmune disease, such as Grave’s disease (also known as toxic diffuse goiter) and type 1 diabetes
- Those who have cancer
How are adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency treated?
The first step is to consult a doctor for proper evaluation and diagnosis. Other health problems that may share the same symptoms as adrenal fatigue are anemia, hormone problems, sleep apnea (a serious disorder that causes breathing interruptions during sleep), mental disorders, autoimmune disease, and problems with certain body organs (e.g., kidneys, liver, heart, and lungs).
If you’re positive for adrenal insufficiency, your doctor will most likely prescribe a class of oral steroids called fludrocortisone acetate (Florinef)—if you’re deficient of the aldosterone steroid hormone. You need to take it once or twice a day.
Don’t expect your doctor to diagnose you of adrenal fatigue. However, if you think you have this condition, find out why your adrenal glands would become fatigued. In most cases, chronic stress would be the main culprit. If so, learn different ways to overcome stress, such as sleeping 8-9 hours every night, using relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation and deep breathing exercises), managing your time wisely, eating properly, and using essential oils.
Some of The Best Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue
Lavender Essential Oil
Are you burned out? Can’t sleep?
Use lavender essential oil. It contains properties that induce sleep, thus it’s often used for insomnia. In a study published in the CNS Drugs, elderly patients replaced their medications for their sleep problems with lavender essential oil, which was placed on their pillows. 3 Results showed that lavender essential oil helped improve sleep regularity due to its relaxing nature.
Inhaling the sweet and floral aroma of this essential oil could help you relax and banish negative emotions. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), an agency that evaluates all medicinal products, approves the use of lavender essential oil for relieving anxiety and stress. 4 It may even serve as a safe alternative to mainstream medicines for anxiety, such as lorazepam. 5
Adrenal fatigue may often follow an infection, such as the flu or bronchitis. In aromatherapy, lavender essential oil is used for treating respiratory infections, such as bronchitis, the flu, the common cold, tonsillitis, throat infection, and laryngitis. The therapeutic vapor of this essential oil contains antibacterial properties. 6 Thus, it may help battle various types of infections, such as those that affect the respiratory tract.
It can also boost your immune system and help you cope with stress better because it’s a natural antioxidant. Most antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, could play a role in the prevention of diseases. According to a study published in the Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, it may help in increasing the effects of body enzymes that act as antioxidants, such as glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase. 7
Suggestions for Use
- Add 3 to 4 drops of lavender essential oil to a diffuser. Let it run for 20 to 30 minutes, every 2 hours. You can also add a few drops on your pillows, so you can sleep better. If you want to enhance its stress-relieving effect, you can combine it with other soothing essential oils, such as chamomile, frankincense, vetiver, and bergamot.
- Massage oil: Dilute 5 drops of lavender essential, 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, and 2 drops of sandalwood essential oil in 4 to 6 teaspoons of mild carrier oil, such as coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil. Massage this oil blend into the back of your neck, temples, wrists, and chest.
Lavender essential oil is one of the mildest essential oils. It seldom causes severe side effects when used aromatically and topically. If you’re already taking medications for a sleep disorder or anxiety, it’s best to avoid using this essential oil because it will enhance their effects. Boys who are in the pre-puberty stage should refrain from using this because it could make their breasts grow big, a medical condition called gynecomastia.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil has a sweet, herb-like, and mildly medicinal aroma. It contains various chemical compounds, such as camphor, 1,8-cineole, and pinene, which are responsible for its mood-enhancing effects. 8
If you’re stressed and overwhelmed, add a few drops of rosemary essential oil and lavender essential oil into a diffuser. Inhale the therapeutic vapors for at least 5 minutes. A study shows that inhaling these two essential oils helped reduced cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone, in the test participants’ saliva. 9
People with adrenal fatigue are often confused, forgetful, distracted, and have reduced mental clarity. Rosemary essential oil may help get rid of these symptoms, study finds. The result of a research has shown that volunteers who inhaled rosemary essential oil were more attentive and had better memory than those who inhaled lavender essential oil. 10
Rosemary essential oil contains chemical constituents (1,8-cineole, camphor, and alpha-pinene) that can ease pain, especially when you use it together with mainstream pain medicines. 11 People with adrenal fatigue may experience body aches.
Suggestions for Use
- Clear brain fog by diffusing rosemary essential oil in your home or office. Add 4 drops of rosemary essential oil and 3 drops of lemon essential oil to a diffuser. Let it run for 20 to 30 minutes, every 2 hours.
- Let the relaxing and pain-relieving properties of rosemary essential oil to relieve mental and physical stress. Dilute 3 to 5 drops of rosemary essential oil, bergamot essential oil, and peppermint essential oil in 6 teaspoons of almond oil.
- Soothing bath water recipe: Mix 2 cups of Epsom salt, 2 tablespoons of vegetable glycerin, and ¼ cup of bentonite clay in a glass bowl using a wooden spoon. Then, add 15 drops of rosemary essential oil, 10 drops of frankincense essential oil, and 5 drops of lavender essential oil. Stir well. Put ½ cup of the mixture to your warm bath water.
Rosemary essential oil is possibly safe when you use it directly to your skin. In some people, it may cause skin irritations. Taking it by mouth may lead to serious consequences, such as spasms, kidney damage, vomiting, or worse, death. Young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people who have problems with their blood sugar should avoid or use this essential oil carefully.
Bergamot Essential Oil
Are you feeling blue? Can’t cope with stressful situations? Try using bergamot essential oil.
Due to its highly stimulating nature, aromatherapists recommend it for easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. 12 There are different ways it can induce feelings of happiness and boost energy levels. One, it improves blood circulation. Second, it improves the activity of dopamine (linked with happiness) and serotonin (mood regulator). 13
In a study, volunteers who used an oil blend consisting of bergamot and lavender essential oils reported feeling calmer and more relaxed than those in the control group. 14 Researchers suggest that it may be a possible remedy for depression and anxiety in humans.
Bergamot essential oil is also a natural antibiotic and disinfectant. It’s often used for treating infections of the skin, kidneys, urinary tract, and intestines. Although more studies are still needed to determine the effectiveness of bergamot essential oil in killing potentially dangerous viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Suggestions for Use
- Dilute 3 drops of bergamot essential oil in 2 to 4 teaspoons of carrier oil. Rub 1 to 2 drops into your hands, and then cup your hands over your nose and mouth. If you have a diffuser, you can add 3 to 6 drops of bergamot essential oil per 100 ml (approximately 3.4 ounces) of water. Inhale the oil slowly to uplift your mood and feel more relaxed.
- Oil blend for stress and negative emotions: Combine 5 drops of bergamot essential oil, 3 drops of orange essential oil, 3 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1 drop of lemongrass essential oil. Dilute these essential oils in 6 to 8 teaspoons of carrier oil (e.g., avocado oil, coconut oil, or sweet almond oil). Massage 1 to 3 drops into any area of your body.
Heavy dilution of bergamot essential oil is necessary to avoid skin irritation. Cover up when going outdoors during the day. If possible, don’t go out 1 to 3 days after applying this essential oil to your skin because it can trigger ultraviolet radiation-induced hypersensitivity reactions, such as blisters, skin darkening, scaly patches, and skin rash.
Birth control pills, common antibiotics (ciprofloxacin and tetracycline), sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (Septra and Bactrim), and antihistamines (Benadryl and Phenergan) are just a few examples of sun-sensitive medications. Avoid using bergamot essential oil if you’re taking any of these medications.
Vetiver Essential Oil
Vetiver essential oil has a deep, earthy aroma that’s soothing and grounding. Because of these qualities, vetiver essential oil is considered one of the top essential oils for improving sleep and alleviating stress. When you’re exhausted and need a quick energy boost, give this a try.
It can also protect you from the harmful effects of free radicals, which are unstable tiny particles that can damage healthy body cells and lead to premature aging and illnesses. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vetiver essential oil is highly effective in protecting body cells from the damaged caused by free radicals. 15
Like with most essential oils for adrenal fatigue, vetiver essential oil has a positive effect on your emotions. And studies seem to confirm this. For instance, the result of one study has shown that it has similar effects as the prescription anti-anxiety drug called diazepam. 16
Suggestions for Use
- Diffuser blends for sleep: Add 5 drops of vetiver essential oil, 3 drops of lavender essential, and 3 drops of cedarwood essential oil to a diffuser. Let it run for 20 to 30 minutes in your room before going to sleep.
- If you don’t have a diffuser, you can also rub a few drops of diluted vetiver essential oil on your feet, temples, and the back of your neck to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep.
The potential side effects of vetiver essential oil are unknown. It’s usually non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Although there’s not enough evidence, pregnant or breastfeeding women or people with health problems should still use this essential oil carefully.
Lemon Essential Oil
For thousands of years, Ayurveda practitioners have used lemon and lemon essential oil for treating a wide variety of health problems. The essential oil derived from lemon peel is composed of 68% d-limonene. 17 D-limonene contains properties that allow it to aid weight loss and prevent or treat cancer and bronchitis. 18
Lemon essential oil can also increase your focus and alertness. So, when you’re experiencing brain fog, diffuse or spray your room with this essential oil to increase your productivity.
Aside from the usual symptoms of adrenal fatigue (overtiredness, brain fog, sleeping problems, etc.), you may also put on weight. Lemon essential oil is known for its ability to improve metabolism. In one study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, researchers found out that inhaling lemon essential oil could help dissolve fat, which is helpful when you’re trying to shed the extra pounds. 19
Are you feeling dizzy, burned out, or anxious? Lemon essential oil may help because of its refreshing and calming properties.
Suggestions for Use
- Lose weight and refresh your mind by adding 3 to 5 drops of lemon essential oil, grapefruit essential oil, and peppermint essential oil to a diffuser. Let it run for 20 to 30 minutes, every 2 hours.
- To keep your immune system strong, dilute 3 drops of lemon essential oil, 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, and 2 drops of rosemary essential oil in 4 teaspoons of mild carrier oil (e.g., coconut oil, olive oil, and almond oil). Stir well. Use a little of the mixture on your inner forearm and wait for 30 minutes to 24 hours for allergic reactions. If there’s none, rub a little of the mixture into your temples and neck.
Lemon essential oil can irritate the skin, so always dilute it in a mild carrier oil, such as coconut oil and jojoba oil. Like with most citrus essential oils, it can promote photosensitivity, which causes your skin to become sensitive to sources of ultraviolet radiation, such as the sun. Experts recommend avoiding direct sunlight or ultraviolet rays within 24 to 72 hours after application. Don’t ingest it without the supervision of a doctor and qualified aromatherapist.
Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil, also called sweet basil oil, has been used for centuries to treat all types of health issues. Some use it to treat infections, such as the common cold and the flu, due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. 20 So, if you’re looking for a natural remedy for an internal or external infection, basil essential oil may offer relief.
Recover after a long day at work or school with a good massage with basil essential oil. This essential oil has cooling and uplifting properties, which make it a great option for reducing the symptoms that accompany adrenal fatigue, such as brain fog, lethargy, and bad moods.
It works by stimulating your nervous system and adrenal cortex. The adrenal cortex is the outer part of your adrenal glands that’s responsible for producing hormones that you need to cope with stress and to control your metabolism. 21
Most people who have suffered from adrenal fatigue experience body aches, particularly in the lower back. Basil essential oil may offer relief from pain due to its analgesic properties. Just add a few drops to any mild carrier oil and massage it on the painful areas of your body.
Suggestions for Use
- If you’re not feeling well, diffuse 3 to 5 drops of basil essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil throughout your home or office for at least 20 minutes. Inhale deeply to keep you alert and energized, as well as to relieve cold or flu symptoms.
- Dilute 15 drops of basil essential oil, 10 drops of lavender essential oil, and 5 drops of rosemary essential oil in 3 teaspoons of vegetable glycerin or vodka to emulsify the essential oils and water. Stir well then pour 1 to 3 drops to a warm bath water. Swish your hand in the bath water to disperse the oil. Take a dip in the tub to relieve pain and relax your mind and body.
Basil essential oil doesn’t pose serious side effects if you use it for a short period and in the recommended amount. Avoid using it on your neck, face, and/or chest without making sure you’ll react positively to it. Consuming it, especially in large amounts, could cause severe side effects, such as:
- Having loose, watery stool two or more times per day
- Feeling of being sick to one’s stomach
- Feeling dizzy
Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano essential oil is packed with important medicinal properties. However, it’s best known as an effective remedy for upper and lower respiratory infections, such as a cough, colds, and flu.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology has shown that oregano essential oil was able to kill staphylococcus aureus, which causes upper respiratory tract infections. 22 The phenols, carvacrol and thymol, in oregano essential oil are great for treating bacterial and fungal infections. What’s more, it acts as an expectorant, so it helps loosen up and drain the mucus and phlegm in your airways.
Oregano essential oil can keep you healthy by strengthening your immune system. It’s a natural antioxidant, so it can keep infection-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses at bay. Carvacrol, which makes up 14.5% of the oil, is a potent antioxidant. 23
Because of its ability to protect healthy cells from the damages done by excess free radicals, some believe that it can protect the body from certain types of cancers. More studies are still needed to confirm this anti-cancer action of oregano essential oil.
Suggestions for Use
- For external infections, combine 3 drops of oregano essential oil and 2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or another carrier oil you like). Apply 2 drops to the affected area. I suggest you buy an oregano oil dietary supplement rather than making your own concoction for treating internal infections and improving your immune system function.
- Treating respiratory infections, such as bronchitis: dilute 2 drops of oregano essential oil and 3 drops of peppermint essential oil in 2 to 4 teaspoons of carrier oil. Apply 2 to 3 drops below your collarbone, near your breast bone (sternum). You could also put 1 to 2 drops of oregano essential oil in a small bowl of hot (non-scalding) water. Put a towel over your head, close your eyes, and inhale the therapeutic vapors for 5 minutes to loosen mucus in your airways and fight the infection.
Because it’s high in phenols, you need to be extra careful when using oregano essential oil aromatically or topically. Remember, a little goes a long way.
It might cause some people to experience breathing problems, nausea, vomiting, speech problems, upset stomach, rashes, and facial swelling. Limit or avoid using basil essential oil if you have a heart disease, high blood pressure, and/or allergy to certain herbs (basil, sage, mint, lavender, or marjoram).
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
If there’s one essential oil that you should have in your medicine cabinet, it’s eucalyptus essential oil. It’s highly effective against a broad range of upper and lower respiratory infections, including bronchitis, the common cold, the flu, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sinusitis, and asthma. 24 The main compounds in eucalyptus essential oil, eucalyptol and alpha-terpineol, promote relaxation and clear breathing. A few studies also suggested that eucalyptol is effective against several strains of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. 25
The reason eucalyptus essential oil is effective in helping your body fight infections is because it can stimulate your immune system, which destroys disease-causing microscopic organisms or substances. It also contains chemical compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. So, if you always get sick, you might want to use eucalyptus essential oil aromatically or topically to boost your immune system.
Eucalyptus essential oil is used in Brazilian traditional medicine to relieve pain and inflammation. According to a research, the essential oils derived from the blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), forest red gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis), and lemon-scented gum (Eucalyptus citriodora) varieties could be useful in developing new pain-killing and anti-inflammatory drugs. 26 If your body is aching due to adrenal fatigue, just massage a drop or two of this essential oil (diluted, of course) to the affected area to achieve relief.
Suggestions for Use
- For a healthy and strong immune system: Fill an amber glass dropper bottle with 30 teaspoons (5 ounces) of carrier oil (e.g., coconut oil, olive oil, and almond oil). Then, add 25 drops of clove essential oil, 20 drops of lemon essential oil, 15 drops of cinnamon bark essential oil, 10 drops of eucalyptus essential, and 5 drops of rosemary essential oil. Mix well using a stainless-steel stirrer. Rub 2 to 3 drops into your temples, wrists, and back of your neck.
- To boost your energy and relieve respiratory infection symptoms: Diffuse 4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and 2 drops of lemon essential oil for 20 to 30 minutes at home or work. Or, add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a bowl of hot water then cover your head with a towel and deeply inhale its therapeutic vapor for 5 minutes.
Eucalyptus essential oil is typically non-toxic and non-irritating. However, there are certain people who should avoid it or use it sparingly, such as children under the age of 6, people with health issues (e.g., asthma and cancer), and people who are taking sedatives.
Consuming eucalyptus essential oil, around 3.5ml or more, could lead to serious complications. 27 Some of the signs and symptoms of eucalyptus essential oil poisoning are dizziness, constricted pupils (the black holes in the center of your eyes), weak muscles, stomach ache, burning sensation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Adrenal Fatigue – When to See Your Doctor
The symptoms you’re feeling are real, but don’t be surprised if your doctor won’t give you a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue. Before you self-diagnose and rush yourself to the nearest emergency room, take time to re-evaluate your diet and lifestyle. You’ll be amazed at how making simple changes to your current diet and lifestyle will make you feel better.
However, if your symptoms persist, you may want to set an appointment to see your doctor to get the proper diagnosis. Some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue tend to overlap with the symptoms of other diseases, such as adrenal insufficiency.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms 28, go see your doctor as soon as you can:
- Extreme tiredness
- Darkening and discoloration of your skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling lightheaded
- Digestive issues, such as vomiting, pain in the abdomen and nausea
- Joint or muscle pain
- Craving salt
When you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, what do you usually do to ease its symptoms? Which of these essential oils best worked for you? Share your thoughts and tips below. I’d love to hear them!
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