Anxiety & Aromatherapy for Children By Penny Price
So, how can aromatherapy help your child? Aromatherapy can help calm a child who is anxious or under stress, reduce nausea, discomfort and pain, and promote healthy sleep. This blog focuses on anxiety and stress, using oils such as ylang ylang, lavender and mandarin.
Is aromatherapy good for children? Of course it is! All my four children were born breathing in the wonderful aromas of lavender, clary sage and neroli – a blend that I used to help cope with the contractions.
From then on, all four of them had essential oils in their bath, in body lotions, nappy creams, massage oils and in diffusers. So what can we help with essential oils? Of the many varying conditions that children can have, most of the answers to this question can be found in my book Aromatherapy for Health Professionals (available from our website https://www.penny-price.com/product/aromatherapy-for-babies-children/)
However, today, I want to discuss anxiety in babies and children and how essential oils and massage can help. Currently, anxiety affects one-eighth of the total population of the world, including children, and has become a very important area of research interest in psychopharmacology. Existing data shows that drug treatments have low efficacy for patients and therefore the search for better anxiolytic drugs with fewer side effects still continues (Bradley et al., 2011).
We’re all familiar with the pleasure that comes from an enjoyable smell, whether it’s the fragrance of a flower or a food, or a scent we associate with good memories. There are various theories as to how exactly aromatherapy works, but some believe that by activating specific smell receptors in the nose, aromatherapy causes the brain to send messages to areas of the nervous system that affect mood and other symptoms. Babies and children have a very sensitive sense of smell. At birth, sight is under-developed, but smell is very developed, and a baby will be able to identify its mother from smell alone. This means we have to be very careful how much essential oil we use, and usually one drop on a tissue will be enough.
As an example, if a baby is anxious and won’t settle, the mother can have a tissue with one drop of ylang ylang, lavender or mandarin (not all three) tucked into her clothing while feeding the child, then when the child is put to bed, the tissue also goes into the cot, safely out of reach, to continue to comfort and calm the baby, who has connected with the aroma through the mother.
As children get older, you may need to find a fragrance your child likes and use it in a diffuser in the bedroom until they are used to it, then a personal inhaler they can keep with them to use when they want help calming down or need a mood boost. Giving your child control of the therapy is also part of its effectiveness. Personal inhalers come in different forms: plastic or aluminum containers with a wick inside, and tubes that look like the traditional Vick inhaler nasal sticks. Penny Price Aromatherapy supplies the plastic ones with natural essential oils, and if you need advice, we are always happy to give it for individual treatment.
My own son when a child who was afraid of imagined beasts under his bed at night. I always massaged his feet with ylang ylang before his bedtime story so that he was calm and relaxed before sleep. Sometimes a bedtime bath with ylang ylang, or lavender and mandaring is also very useful for relaxation and calming.
The essential oils most consistently used for anxiety and depression are lavender, jasmine, ylang–ylang, sandalwood, bergamot and rose, with ylang ylang being one of the most documented. Ylang-ylang oil has commonly used in aromatherapy through either massage or inhalation ways for relaxation and mood adjusting and it is also calming, sedating, pain-relieving, relaxing and yet uplifting.
A few housekeeping points:
- Never give your child (or indeed anyone) essential oils internally, EVER.
- Never apply essential oils undiluted to the skin
- Use an electric diffuser as these are safer. However if you are using a water-based diffuser, clean the container daily. Standing water can breed bacteria and mould, and you don’t want to diffuse that into the air your family is breathing.
- Always buy your oils from a reputable supplier who can offer advice and help along your journey
- Do not replace medical treatment with essential oils. If your child is under medication and you would like to try out the impact of essential oils, contact a professional aromatherapist (registered with the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), or the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA), or the Federation of Holistic Practitioners (FHT), as these therapists will have studied to clinical levels.
So how do we use essential oils and how much do we use?
Massage – In 10ml of almond or sunflower oil use 1 drop for babies up to 3 years old, use 2 drops for 4-7 years old.
Diffuser or vaporiser – Use 4 drops in a vaporiser
Bath – Add 1 drop in a baby bath, with bath foam to disperse for babies up to 3 years old, use 2-3 drops of 4-7 years old
In lotions and creams – In 10ml of almond or sunflower oil use 1 drop for babies up to 3 years old, use 2 drops for 4-7 years old
Diffusers are the best way to get your baby/child used to aromatherapy. From there I suggest you make a hand cream, using a bland lotion as in the above dilutions, so that you can massage your child’s hands and feet to begin with. Starting with small areas of the body builds up your childs trust that this is safe and also enjoyable.
Here is a little bit more on treating your child for anxiety, hyperactivity and insomnia from my book, Aromatherapy for Babies and Children.
Probably anxiety is suffered more by children than adults realize! Changing school routines, starting nursery, being unwell, being affected by parents’ squabbles or even separation, or simply being over-stimulated by well-meaning but over-exacting parents can all lead to a stressful child. Symptoms can include a worsening of allergies (such as asthma), sleeplessness, loss of appetite, constipation or diarrhoea and pallid skin – among many others.
- Inhalation (for panic attacks)
Recommended carriers: avocado, hypericum, sunflower
Recommended essential oils: bergamot, chamomile (Roman), geranium, lavender, mandarin, marjoram (sweet), orange (sweet), rose otto, rosewood*, sandalwood*, ylang ylang
2 drops rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora)
2 drops ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)
50 ml sunflower oil
3 drops geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
3 drops sandalwood (Santalum album)
2 drops ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)
Not many children are truly hyperactive, most children being simply extremely energetic! It has been said that if an experienced athlete were to follow a toddler around all day he or she would feel exhausted by bedtime (we know how that feels!). However, if your child is truly hyperactive, then diet is the first avenue to explore. Many colourings (e.g. orange squash, highly coloured sweets, etc.) and refined, bleached foods can be the direct cause of hyperactivity, and these therefore need to be excluded from your child’s diet.
Massage is the best way of calming the child – if you can catch him! Having treated several hyperactive children we would advise starting with massage of the hands only – more than that will bore the child and he will fidget. After a time, including the legs, then move to the back; gradually you will be able to build up to a full massage – if needed.
Recommended carriers: almond, sunflower
Recommended essential oils: bergamot, chamomile (Roman), frankincense, geranium, lavender, mandarin, marjoram (sweet), rose otto, sandalwood, thyme (sweet), ylang ylang
2 drops sandalwood (Santalum album)
1 drop frankincense (Boswellia carteri)
1 drop ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)
There’s nothing quite as exhausting as having to wake up in the night to look after a sleepless child! There can be many reasons why a child will wake in the night and all of these should be checked out as well as giving aromatherapy
Treatment. Here is a checklist:
- Is your child too hot in bed?
- Too cold?
- Does he have a blocked nose, cough or any other physical discomfort?
- Does he wake to use the toilet?
- Is it a habit?
Usually a warm bath at bedtime using oils such as sandalwood, ylang ylang or marjoram (sweet) can be very helpful. Also, put some oils onto a tissue to tuck under his pillowcase for inhalation. If your child is usually lively and energetic, a massage after his evening bath is a gentle way to relax and soothe him and encourage sleep. Lavender, if not the genuine oil, or if used in excess, can cause wakefulness, so always use only 1 or 2 drops (maximum) for children.
Recommended carriers: almond, sunflower, white lotion
Recommended essential oils: bergamot, chamomile (Roman), lavender, lemon, mandarin, marjoram (sweet), sandalwood, ylang ylang
Suggested Recipe for a massage oil.
30 ml almond oil
20 ml sunflower oil
3 drops chamomile (Roman) (Chamaemelum nobile)
3 drops ylang ylang (Cananga odorata)
2 drops marjoram (sweet) (Origanum majorana)