What Essential Oils Can Ease Anxiety and Stress

For people struggling with chronic stress, everyday anxiety is an all too common problem. To help lessen your worries and unwind your mind, it’s crucial to take steps like practicing mind/body techniques (such as meditation) and talking to a mental health professional.

There’s also some research showing that the scent of aromatherapy essential oils may also help you unwind. Here are nine of the more popular scents, with tips on how to use them!

Lavender Essential Oil

One of the most popular essential oils used in aromatherapy, lavender oil is prized for its calming effects on the body and mind. Long used to lessen stress, it’s also said to relieve anxiety. Practitioners of aromatherapy suggest that inhaling the fresh, floral scent of lavender oil can help alleviate anxiety in part by producing a mildly sedative effect. Some research shows that lavender-based aromatherapy may help ease anxiety.

For example, a study published in Physiology & Behavior in 2005 found that breathing in the aroma of lavender helped tame anxiety and boost mood in participants prior to undergoing dental treatments.

More: Aromatherapy with Lavender Oil and Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Lavender oil can be found in a variety of aromatherapy products, including bath salts, and massage oil. Another way to take advantage of the soothing scent of lavender: try sipping lavender-infused herbal tea, which is sold in many natural-foods stores. Also available in tea form, herbs like chamomile may provide anxiety relief as well.

 Smelling certain natural fragrances may help tame your stress, a study shows. In tests on rats, scientists discovered that animals that inhaled the scent of linalool (a compound found in lemons, oranges, basil, mangos, grapes, lavender, and other foods and flowers) had a decrease in their levels of stress-elevated immune cells. Study results also showed that sniffing linalool helped dampen the activity of a number of genes that tend to be overactivated in moments of stress.More: Lemon Essential Oil and Using Aromatherapy for SleepPractitioners of aromatherapy often use linalool-rich essential oil to relieve stress, improve mood, promote sleep, and ease symptoms of depression. Essential oils commonly used to lessen nervous tension and anxiety include lavender, rose, jasmine, geranium, bergamot, cypress, melissa, neroli, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
For natural relief of anxiety, some individuals turn to aromatherapy involving the use of lemongrass essential oil (sourced from the Cymbopogon citratus plant). Inhaling the scent of lemongrass essential oil (or applying lemongrass essential oil to the skin in combination with a carrier oil) is thought to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety symptoms.

Although there’s limited evidence on the effectiveness of lemongrass essential oil as an anti-anxiety treatment, one preliminary study published in 2011 found that mice treated with lemongrass essential oil experienced changes in brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (a type of chemical thought to occur at low levels in people with anxiety disorders).

More on Lemongrass Essential Oil.

For more help in relieving anxiety with aromatherapy, consider using lavender and rose essential oils.

Carrot Seed Essential Oil

A sweet-scented substance long used in aromatherapy, carrot seed essential oil is sometimes touted as a natural solution for stress relief. It’s thought that breathing in the somewhat earthy fragrance of this essential oil can send messages to the limbic system (a brain region known to influence the nervous system) and, in turn, promote relaxation.More on Carrot Seed Essential Oil.Despite its long history of use, the aromatherapeutic effects of carrot seed essential oil have yet to be explored in scientific studies.

If you’re seeking an aromatherapy remedy for better stress management, consider blending carrot seed essential oil with lavender essential oil (a substance shown to possess sedative properties). When combined with a carrier oil and massaged into your skin (or added to a bath), a blend of carrot seed and lavender oils may help you wind down after a stressful day.

 Neroli Essential Oil
An aromatherapy remedy with a sweet and spicy aroma, neroli essential oil is sometimes used to ease anxiety. Proponents claim that breathing in the scent of this essential oil (sourced from the flowers of the bitter orange tree) can help promote calm and stop excessive worrying.Although research on the health effects of neroli essential oil is fairly limited, there’s some evidence that neroli may aid in the treatment of anxiety.

In a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, for example, an aromatherapy blend containing neroli essential oil was found to reduce anxiety and alleviate sleep problems in a group of coronary angioplasty patients.

More on Neroli Essential Oil and Using Aromatherapy to Ease Anxiety

Orange Essential Oil

Need to unwind? Preliminary research suggests that breathing in the sweet aroma of orange essential oil may help alleviate your anxiety. A type of essential oil long used in aromatherapy, orange essential oil appears to enhance mood while promoting calm.

A number of other essential oils may offer natural anxiety relief. For instance, rose essential oil may help lower your breathing rate and blood pressure during stressful situations.

In addition, lavender essential oil has been found to have a calming effect on the nervous system.

More on Orange Essential Oil.

While nearly everyone struggles with anxiety every now and then, it’s important to watch out for signs of an anxiety disorder. If you’re experiencing symptoms like a near-constant presence of worry or tension, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disruption, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider.

 Bergamot Essential Oil
The substance that gives earl grey tea its sweet fragrance, bergamot essential oil is widely used in aromatherapy. Sourced from the peel of Citrus bergamia (a citrus fruit), bergamot essential oil may help to lessen your stress.

While research on the stress-easing effects of bergamot essential oil is fairly limited, some research shows that aromatherapeutic use of this oil may help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

In addition, there’s some evidence that bergamot essential oil may alleviate anxiety and improve mood.

Related: Bergamot Essential Oil 

When using bergamot essential oil for stress relief, the oil should be blended with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado) and then applied directly to the skin or added to a bath. You can also inhale the soothing scent of bergamot by sprinkling a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Almost 67 million Americans have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. To help bring your blood pressure down and boost your heart health, it’s crucial to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, follow a balanced diet, limit your intake of salt and alcohol, and avoid smoking.

Preliminary research also suggests that ylang ylang essential oil (a substance long used in aromatherapy) may be of some benefit to people with high blood pressure.

For instance, a small study published in 2012 found that breathing in the scent of an aromatherapy blend containing ylang ylang essential oil led to a decrease in blood pressure and stress-hormone levels.

More on Ylang Ylang Essential Oil and 8 Delicious Food Remedies for Better Blood Pressure.

While it’s too soon to recommend ylang ylang essential oil for blood pressure control, incorporating ylang-ylang-based aromatherapy into your self-care routine might offer stress-reducing benefits that could enhance your overall health.

Frankincense Essential Oil
An aromatherapy oil with a sweet, woody scent, frankincense essential oil is sometimes used to unwind and ease stress. Typically sourced from the resin of the boswellia tree, frankincense essential oil is also said to alleviate anxiety.So far, research on the stress-relieving effects of frankincense essential oil is very limited. While there’s currently a lack of scientific support for the claim that frankincense can fight stress, it’s possible that using this essential oil in combination with relaxing oils like lavender, rose, and orange drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue could help you calm down.When using essential oils, make sure to combine the oil with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), before applying it to your skin or adding it to your bath. You can also use an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer, or sprinkle a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue and then breathe in its aroma.
More Tips on Using Essential Oils for Stress
  • Try putting a drop of an essential oil on a handkerchief or cotton pad (never directly on skin.)
  • A drop or an essential oil can be added to a bath or shower.
  • A drop of an essential oil can be placed on a clay pendant necklace and worn around the neck.

Keep in mind that it’s important to consult a mental-health professional and/or a certified Aromatherapist before using any type of essential oil in the treatment of an anxiety disorder.

About the writer – Cathy Wong is a naturopathic doctor and an American College of Nutrition-certified nutrition specialist.

Cathy’s work and opinions are regularly featured in major print and online media, including First For WomenMen’s HealthNatural HealthBody + SoulWoman’s Day, Vegetarian Times, New YorkNatural Solutions and Time Out New York. She has also been featured on Martha Stewart Omnimedia’s “Healthy Living” and “Body + Soul,” Sirius Radio programs, ABC-TV Channel 5 News, and in the books The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth (Fair Winds Press, 2007) and The Doctor’s Book of Natural Health Remedies (Random House, 2014).

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