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Natural Remedy to Complement Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

Natural Remedy for PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is more common than you may think. Researchers have tested a complementary treatment on mice and feel it may be potentially useful for humans.


According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about 8% of people in the States will develop post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. PTSD can happen to anyone, at any age.

The main treatments for people with PTSD are medications, psychotherapy (“talk” therapy), or both. But everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. In addition, medications that help to treat PTSD may come with serious side effects.

Cassandra Moshfegh, a research assistant at the George Washington University, conducted research that is presented this week at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting in Chicago. Her team found that orange essential oils may help improve markers of stress and fear.

Essential oils are aromatic compounds produced naturally by plants. Orange essential oil is typically extracted from the peel of the orange fruit. Essentials can be introduced either by diffusing them into the air, applying them to the skin, or ingesting them as foods or beverages.

Using Pavlovian Fear conditioning, which is used to study the formation, storage and expression of fear memories, mice were trained to be fearful after hearing a certain audial tone. In the test animals, both before and after being exposed to the conditioning, they were then exposed to orange essential oil, by inhaling the scent.

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Those exposed to orange essential oil showed a significant reduction in fear response, typically manifested by “freezing” in response to the stimulus. Biochemically, they showed significant differences in the types of immune cells present after the fear condition.

Obviously, it still needs to be shown whether this simple treatment is useful for humans, but as essential oils are economical and do not have any known adverse side effects, says Moshfegh, it would be reasonable to incorporate this technique as a complement to standard therapies.

However, with essential oils, be sure fully read the labels. Certain oils are not to be used in certain cases, such as in children or during pregnancy. Ingesting oils can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances and (as with eucalyptus and sage oil) could trigger seizures. Citrus oils have recently been implicated in burns when used during exposure to sunlight or a heat source (in one case, during a hot yoga class.)

Remember also to purchase from a trusted source. Because the FDA does not regulate these products, what is on the label may not actually be in the bottle.

Experimental Biology 2017. "Orange essential oil may help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder: Researchers find evidence that essential oil reduces fear, diminishes immune system markers of stress in mice." ScienceDaily. 24 April 2017.

Additional Resource:
National Institute of Mental Health (National Institute of Health)
National Capital Poison Center

Photo Credit:
By Marines from Arlington, VA, United States (Battling PTSD) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons