5 Essential Oils That Help Improve Athletic Performance
What is common between 11 times world surfing champion Jamie Mitchell, NFL champ, Tim Hightower, and Olympic athlete Christa Dietzen? These are accomplished world athletes who have embraced the deep rejuvenating and healing powers of essential oils that are now backed by science, for benefits ranging from improved lung function, digestive benefits, relief from headaches, to more mental clarity and focus.
Essential oils or EOs are prepared using the distillation process, where the herbs and plant parts are carefully steamed or pressed to separate the pure scents or flavors of the oils from the rest. There is lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, sandalwood, as many herbs as many essential oils, with each oil having its own set of profound health benefits. EOs are taken into the body mainly through aroma, also called aromatherapy, by way of external application or consumed orally. But oral consumption of EOs is said to have its own set of health complications, and so it is necessary to consume essential oils orally only under medical advice.
If you are into running and often meet with running injuries, Ayurveda recommends self-massage therapy or Abhyanga. For runners and those who are into rigorous sports, muscles undergo wear and tear on a regular basis, and knee and back pain are not uncommon. The oil application helps reduce the pain and ease muscle fatigue significantly.
Ayurveda recommends daily oil massage to keep the bones lubricated, increase stamina, and remove muscle fatigue. An oil massage regulates Vata, increases blood circulation, and supports detoxification in the body. But one of its most important applications is in healing the muscles when muscles undergo microscopic breakage due to a new workout regime or exertion of muscles beyond what they are sued to. The human body’s immune system takes over at such times and heals the breakage internally.
At such times, oil massage with natural oils prepared for the specific purpose like Shankara’s Muscle Release Oil can go a long way in releasing the pain and soreness from the muscles. The oil, a unique blend of eastern herbal essences and actives from the west like sunflower, almond, sesame, aloe vera, castor, jojoba, sweet birch, lavender, cedarwood, frankincense, devils claw, Boswellia among others, is widely being used by those who are into sports, Yoga or some form of workout that works up the muscle tissues of the body.
- It has an invigorating scent that provides a soothing and aromatic experience during body massages
- Supports long term balance and restoration
- Ideal for deep tissue massages
- Free from counter-irritants and other side-effect ridden ingredients
- Supports the natural intelligence and healing wisdom of the body
Some of the benefits of the essential oils popularly used by sportspersons include:
1. Peppermint oil
Athletes need robust lung function because when they are engaged in a sports activity, the lungs need to work harder to make more oxygen available to the body as muscles are on overdrive then. An important study in this light, suggests, use of essential oils may help. The study published by Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that there was a correlation between the use of peppermint oil among male athletes and improvement in athletic performance and better lung function. Yet another study suggested that in addition to this, peppermint oil also helped increase brain stimulation, supported lower heart rate, lower systolic blood pressure, and more muscular strength.
In another interesting study, a French cyclist group was given a blend of rosemary and peppermint EO before their event. The cyclists reported better muscle relaxation, lesser muscle fatigue and overall improvement in their performance.
The use of peppermint oil is also known to help relieve indigestion and gas, reduce nausea, relieve headaches, improve mental focus, and reduce pains and aches in the body.
2. Lavender oil
Not taking out the time to provide decent rest to your body after practices or games can take a toll on the body and cause premature burnouts. So a deeply relaxing massage with essential oils like lavender oil can go a long way to deepen this quality of rest, right before going to sleep.
Lavender oil helps you sleep better, heals wounds quickly as it helps speed up recovery, is mild and good for most people including people who have known allergies. It is known to treat anxiety (including performance anxiety), depression, insomnia, skin problems, and allergies.
3. Blue chamomile
Chamomile is one of the EOs whose many benefits come backed by science including helping deal with digestive issues like indigestion, nausea or gastric issues, healing injuries and wounds, reducing inflammation, pain-relieving properties and improving the quality of sleep.
This essential oil is not as widely known but it comes with a wide range of healing and rejuvenating benefits for the body and mind for sportsmen and women and athletes. For people into professional sports, a single day of allergic reactions or cold and flu can hamper practice and pull them down on the leaderboard. EOs like helichrysum are known to be effective in reducing allergies, fighting infections, reducing inflammations due to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It also helps with digestive issues like bloating, constipation, improper digestion, or acidity.
There is no dearth of literature on the benefits and research on the effectiveness of turmeric as a spice or essential oil. But for sportspeople, it is far more valuable for its ability to launch a strong defense against oxidative stress. Turmeric is loaded in antioxidants that give it solid anti-inflammatory properties. According to a study, when participants took curcumin, a key compound in turmeric, after an intense workout, they reported faster healing from muscle soreness and muscle damage. In other words, now they were able to recover quicker from more intense workouts without causing muscular damage. Studies have also found that the use of turmeric reduces mental stress even when the level of physical exertion is elevated.
Aromatherapy using essential oils of herbs that are rare, fine, and full of natural healing properties can help you not only perform better mentally and physically but also, continue to help you deal with the sport-related wear and tear on the muscles, strengthen bones, improve lung function and functions of other vital organs and manage stress.