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Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue

By Jodi Cohen

Exhausted programmer asleep at her desk after a long night of coding.

If you are feeling anxious overwhelmed or exhausted – possibly all at the same time – your adrenal glands might need a little support.

Your adrenal glands are two little pea-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys and the back of the body near the bottom of your ribs. When we are in a stressful situation, the hypothalamus in your brain triggers your adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, to give us that extra boost of reserve energy that we need to survive the stress, like running from a wild animal.

But when you dig too deeply into the energy reserves for too long, your adrenal glands get depleted.  It’s a little bit like deficit spending, at a certain point your credit runs out and you have no reserves to draw upon.

Chronic stress depletes your adrenal glands and compromises your ability to keep up with the constant demand for the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol provides quick fuel in the face of emergency. When the brain perceives a stress, it triggers the adrenal glands to pump out cortisol which raises the level of sugar in the blood – providing you with the energy to fight or flee the stressful situation.  Cortisol also monitors basic body functions, including inflammation response and immune function.

Your adrenals glands are not designed to constantly pump out excessive levels cortisol.  Over time, chronic and prolonged stress can over-tax and exhaust your adrenal glands, impeding their ability to produce and release sufficient levels of stress hormones, like cortisol or adrenaline that provide us with energy and support other necessary for proper body functions.  This state of diminished resilience is known as adrenal fatigue. This leads to chronic fatigue, an impaired immune system, inflammation, and the other symptoms of adrenal fatigue.


Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

  • Feeling tired for no reason
  • Low energy through the day, especially in the early morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Low Back Pain or Hip Pain – Your Adrenal glands directly impact some of the muscles that manage the lower back and hip, including your Sartorius  muscle, which is a major pelvic stabilizer. High levels of stress can create tension in the muscles causing them to stiffen or lock up resulting in back pain.
  • Trouble concentrating or easily overwhelmed
  • Racing thoughts, especially when trying to fall asleep at night
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Feeling rundown or overwhelmed
  • Difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  • Cravings for salty or sweet foods – Adrenal fatigue depletes salt levels in the body because it reduces aldosterone, the salt-monitoring hormone. Sweet foods boost blood sugar
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Hormonal imbalances – – no libido, fertility issues, hormonal acne, low thyroid function (hypothyroid)
  • Anxiety, mental exhaustion, and/or depression
  • Depressed immunity or lingering colds
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions and completing tasks in a logical order
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep even though you might feel physically exhausted
  • Excessive thirst or frequent urination
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue
  • Frequent irritability or anger
  • Scattered focus and poor memory


Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue can present as different sets of symptoms depending on the length of time you’ve been dealing with it, and the severity of stress or lack of recovery in your life.

Early stage “alarm reaction”: Adrenal glands are able to handle the stress and the demand for the hormones remains within normal range. Symptoms may include fatigue, or cravings for energy boosting substances like coffee or carbohydrates.  High cortisol throughout the day can also make you feel anxious, irritable, tense, and overstimulated.

Stage Two “resistance response”: As the demand for stress hormones continues to tax and overwhelm your adrenals, they may start to struggle. Resources like Pregnenolone needed to produce sex and thyroid hormones are being diverted to produce stress hormones like cortisol. A common feeling during this phase is “wired but tired”, where you can maintain alertness during the day but crash hard in the evening. This can present as anxiety and insomnia, impacting your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. You may feel like you require more rest than usual to recover.

Stage Three “adrenal exhaustion”: Over time high demand for cortisol that the adrenals are unable to keep up with significantly weakens adrenal function. As cortisol gradually declines, your body will shut down nonessential functions in an attempt to conserve energy and ensure survival. For example, hormone levels drop and your body may resort to breaking down muscle tissue to produce energy, presenting as symptoms like greater fatigue, lack of enthusiasm, slower metabolism and recovery time, lower resilience to stress and greater mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion.


Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is a state of diminished resilience.  Plants and essential oils, which are the concentrated essences of plants, possess adaptogenic properties that can help to rebuild your resilience. This helps regulate and normalize your adrenal stress response.

Adaptogens are a class of non-toxic plants and herbs that help your body adapt and react to stress in the best way possible. In other words, they regulate and normalize the adrenal stress response by helping your body maintain homeostasis (balance / wellness).

Adaptogens can be either stimulating or relaxing depending upon what you personally need.  In other words, adaptogens “adapt” to what your body needs, calming over-functioning or hyper-adrenal cortisol rhythms or boosting under-functioning or hypo-adrenal patterns. In other words, they can either stimulate or relax your nervous system, depending on what your body needs in the moment.  Adaptogenic essential oils are capable of balancing opposing conditions without creating further imbalance.

Essential oil safety expert Robert Tisserand cautions that “need to be careful how we apply general terms such as “stimulating”. The evidence shows that peppermint oil both increases alertness, and reduces blood pressure. This is not adaptogenesis, nor is it a contradiction, it’s simply that alertness and blood pressure are controlled by different parts of our nervous system, and the same essential oil can be both “stimulating” and “depressing” at the same time, but to different receptor sites or neurochemical pathways.

Research supports that “adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, ant depressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity. In addition, a number of clinical trials demonstrate that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly in tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention.”

Adaptogenic essential oils can help nourish and rebuild the adrenal glands to heal alleviate adrenal fatigue and support the processes that are controlled by the adrenals like blood sugar, the immune system, hormones, and even blood pressure.


My Favorite Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue

Essential Oils with their unique ability to return different organ systems to balance can help refill our reserves and dig us out of the adrenal fatigue hole.  The following proprietary blends were designed to relieve and support Adrenal Fatigue:

Adrenal®: Our adrenal glands help determine and regulate the body’s stress response by secreting key hormones that regulate energy production and storage. Prolonged periods of stress can deplete our reserves of these hormones.  Much like adaptogenic herbs, Vibrant Blue Oils Adrenal® blend helps increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and maintain healthy adrenal function.  Adrenal® proprietary formulations includes very specific ratios of the following organic and/or wild crafted, therapeutic oils in a base of fractionated coconut oil:

Cinnamon is known to strengthen the endocrine system (our adrenals are part of this system), the nervous system, and helps balance blood sugar levels. It is an immuno-stimulant and may promote physical energy and enhance the action and activity of other oils. Emotionally and spiritually, cinnamon is said to increase our self-love, improve our body image and acceptance, and allows us to feel free to be ourselves.

Galbanum helps combat stress, nervous tension as well as anti-inflame and reprogram emotions. Galbanum reduces inflammation and supports the strength of the body as a whole.  It aids in centering and grounding the mind which helps balance the adrenals, which in turn, strengthens and supports the whole body.

Manuka from New Zealand is said to have a relaxing and sleep enhancing effect which helps the body repair itself from chronic stress, nervous exhaustion, and anxiety. It is also known to reduce systemic inflammation. It is beneficial for people with over sensitive nervous systems and those who suffer from stress and anxiety.

Rosemary is known to support adrenal function, Rosemary essential oil naturally relieves stress and nervous exhaustion and stimulates the immune system. A 2007 study found that Rosemary oil rapidly reduced cortisol levels in saliva in minutes just by smelling it. This is one of the best ways to help alleviate and control stress in the body.

Thyme balances hormones that help support adrenal glands, which helps you overcome physical and emotional fatigue and mental exhaustion. It helps strengthen your nerves, and helps you feel a sense of calm and relaxation.


How to Apply Essential Oils for Adrenal Fatigue

You can topically apply 1- 2 drops of Adrenal® on the adrenal glands (on the lower mid-back, one fist above the 12th rib on each side). Dilute to start or if any redness occurs.

Smelling Adrenal® though the left nostril also helps to alleviate anxiety. My friend and colleague, Dr. Titus Chiu of The Modern Brain – Root Cause Neurology explains that the over-activity of the right frontal lobe of your brain versus the left contributes to anxiety.  The right brain processes the emotional aspects of the human experience, giving us empathy and compassion, but in overdrive in the right brain can contribute to heightened emotions and anxiety.

Inhaling an essential oil through the left nostril helps to stimulate the left frontal lobe and balance the over-activity of the right frontal lobe. Inhaling Adrenal® blend through the left nostril helps to stimulate the left frontal lobe and create balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which then balances the over-activity of the right frontal lobe and leads to feelings of calm.


Additional Essential Oils to Support Adrenal Fatigue:

Hypothalamus™: The hypothalamus is pearl size region of the brain that serves as control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body.  It is constantly reading blood the levels of cortisol, and adjusting signals sent to the adrenal glands for optimal internal balance (homeostasis) of the body.  Chronic and prolonged stress can damage the hypothalamus’s ability to receive clear messages from the body which then impacts all outgoing endocrine and neural signals. Just as you might reboot a computer, you can reset the hypothalamus with Vibrant Blue Hypothalamus™ blend to encourage the natural ability of the hypothalamus to receive clear messages from the body.

Circadian Rhythm®: A critical component to healing from adrenal fatigue is the quality of our sleep.  Ideally, we should fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night.  The hormone that helps us fall asleep is melatonin, secreted by the Pineal Gland.  Chronic and prolonged stress and the resulting cortisol release can undermine the body’s ability to release melatonin because melatonin has an antagonist relationship to the stress hormone, cortisol.  More specifically, when cortisol levels are high, melatonin levels stay low.  In theory, this makes total sense because if you need to escape a dangerous situation, it would not serve you to fall asleep.  But in practice, it really throws our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, known as the Circadian Rhythms out of balance.  To return the circadian rhythm to balance, apply Vibrant Blue Oils Circadian Rhythm® blend, which triggers the natural  release of melatonin before bed.

All of these oils are included in the Vibrant Blue Oils Stress Support Kit™.

Epsom Salt Baths: Magnesium helps to calm the adrenal glands. Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate first distilled from seawater in the town of Epsom, England.  Magnesium helps relax your blood vessels and can have an immediate impact on naturally lowering blood pressure.  Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body including regulating enzyme activity, reducing inflammation, helping to improve muscle and nerve function along with blood flow throughout the body.

Studies have shown that both magnesium and sulfate are easily absorbed through the skin and into the body’s blood stream. The skin is a highly porous membrane that both takes in minerals and eliminates toxins every day.  You can learn more about Epsom salt baths here or download our FREE Healing Bath guide here.


Featured Oils:

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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.