13 Essential Oils that Relieve Stress and Anxiety
Some may be leery of the idea that smelling an aroma can produce noticeable effects on the body and mind, but medical studies continue to show that aromatic molecules in essential oils pass through the blood-brain barrier when inhaled and directly affect the brain. Research has concluded that essential oils affect biological factors such as heart rate, stress levels, breathing and blood pressure. Certain oils have been used to treat stress and anxiety for thousands of years. Of all the essential oils out there, 13 rise above the rest when it comes to their incredible abilities to instantly lower stress and anxiety.
1. Lavender Oil
Famous for its calming effects, lavender oil has been widely studied and proven to reduce anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression. It lowers levels of cortisol (a hormone responsible for your body’s stress response) when simply inhaled.
Lavender oil is safe to use directly on your skin, so you can massage onto your temples and neck for instant relaxation effects. Otherwise, use a diffuser to release its healing properties into the air you breathe, or relax with a few drops in a hot bath. Lavender is safe for children but not recommended for pregnant women because it promotes menstrual flow and may increase the risk of miscarriage.
2. Rose Oil
Rose essential oil is distilled from rose petals and is used in aromatherapy to treat anxiety, panic attacks, shock, grief and depression. In a study on pregnant women, a 10-minute foot bath with rose oil was shown to significantly lower anxiety levels compared to a foot bath with no oils used. You can enjoy its soothing effects by diffusing it or applying it topically using a carrier oil like coconut oil or jojoba oil to dilute it.
3. Roman Chamomile Oil
Chamomile tea has long been used to calm the nerves and promote sound sleep. The active compounds found in Roman chamomile oil modulate the brain’s emotional center when inhaled or taken internally, and work to reduce feelings of fear, aggression and paranoia. Roman chamomile oil lowers cortisol and acts as a mild sedative, making it perfect for panic attacks, anxiety attacks or bouts of insomnia. Add a few drops to a diffuser or massage on your temples and neck. For internal use, take 2 drops a day under your tongue or with a spoonful of honey.
4. Ylang Ylang Oil
Ylang ylang oil comes from a tropical flowering plant and is often used in perfumery for its beautiful scent. Nonetheless, its medicinal properties are extremely potent, as it’s used to calm the body’s response to stress, uplift your mood and promote energy while having a calming effect at the same time. Inhale it directly from the bottle or use a diffuser when you need to “hack” your mood, or add it to a carrier oil or lotion to enjoy its scent and therapeutic abilities.
5. Frankincense Oil
Known as the “king of essential oils,” frankincense essential oil has an extensive list of therapeutic benefits. When inhaled, it reduces stress, anxiety and depression while promoting a positive emotional state. It even lowers your pulse, reduces high blood pressure and balances an overactive nervous system. It restores hormonal balance and improves cognitive function and concentration, which helps you deal with stress.
Take 2 drops of frankincense oil a day internally or diffuse it to enjoy its effects. You can use 3 or 4 drops on your temples and neck, or mix it with a carrier oil or shea butter to apply it as a daily lotion, since it also has tremendous benefits for your skin.
6. Grapefruit Oil
Grapefruit essential oil reduces stress, uplifts your mood and promotes mental clarity. Its aroma is refreshing, and inhaling it can even alleviate stress-related tension headaches. It also helps you curb sugar cravings and has an antidepressant effect. The cleansing scent of grapefruit oil makes it great for DIY household cleaners or fragrance sprays. You can also apply it topically with a carrier oil or use it in DIY skincare products.
7. Vetiver Oil
Vetiver oil has an earthy scent and is regarded in aromatherapy as a grounding and stabilizing essential oil. It’s used to treat stress, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, restlessness and hysteria. It’s shown to boost your focus and mental clarity. According to studies, vetiver oil reduces ADHD symptoms, promoting calm concentration in adults and children alike. You can diffuse vetiver oil or use it topically with a carrier oil.
8. Lemongrass Oil
Lemongrass essential oil comes from citrus-flavored grass stalks that are known for their use in Thai cooking. Lemongrass oil is used to reduce stress, anxiety and insomnia, and soothe feelings of agitation. One study on mice found that these effects are the result of lemongrass oil boosting the brain’s levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid—a neurotransmitter that helps inhibits the central nervous system’s response to stress. Because lemongrass oil stimulates menstruation, it should be avoided during pregnancy.
9. Orange Oil
Orange oil has a strong aroma that gives you the same uplifting, awakening effect as smelling fresh orange peels. It promotes hormonal balance and has been found to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Although it uplifts your mood and energizes your mind, it also promotes calmness in the face of stress and anxiety. Even inhaling it directly from the bottle is enough to bring on an instant feeling of relaxation.
10. Bergamot Oil
In studies, bergamot essential oil is shown to reduce nervous tension in the body and mind. It reduces cortisol and corticosterone levels, effectively lowering stress and anxiety, while promoting better energy levels. Bergamot oil is safe to use topically and even internally. Take 1 to 3 drops daily with a spoonful of honey or under the tongue to reduce stress levels and help keep anxiety at bay.
11. Jasmine Oil
Distilled from the divinely scented jasmine flower, jasmine essential oil works wonders on the body’s central nervous system, reducing the effects of stress on the body and mind. Impressively, it alters several biological factors, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure when your body is affected by stress, and promoting regular, deep breathing.
Jasmine oil even works as an aphrodisiac because of its ability to stop the central nervous system from putting the body in “stress mode.” It boosts mental clarity, mood and alertness while calming your nerves at the same time. Use it as an invigorating massage oil by combining it with a carrier oil, or add a few drops to a hot bath to help you relax and unwind.
12. Clary Sage Oil
Clary sage oil has an incredible capacity to restore hormonal imbalances. One study found that inhaling clary sage oil reduces cortisol levels by 36 percent while boosting levels of serotonin, the “happiness hormone” known for improving symptoms of depression.
If stress or anxiety keeps you awake at night or reduce your quality of sleep, you can try clary sage as a natural cure for insomnia. Serotonin converts to melatonin at night, which promotes feelings of sleepiness and deeper, longer sleep. Put a few drops of clary sage oil on a cotton ball and place it next to your pillow when you sleep. Or, spray your pillow with an aromatherapy spray that contains clary sage oil.
13. Cedarwood Oil
Extracted from the wood of cedar trees, cedarwood oil has a woody, sweet aroma. Like clary sage oil, it uplifts your mood and promotes better sleep by increasing serotonin production in the brain. It’s also used for focus, calmness and to reduce symptoms of ADHD. In a study on animals, researchers concluded that cedarwood oil directly modulates the autonomic nervous system, producing a mildly sedative effect when inhaled. When you need to calm your nerves, use cedarwood oil in a diffuser, inhale it from the bottle or rub 2 or 3 drops on your temples or neck.
Tips and Safety Recommendations for Using Essential Oils
While they are 100 percent natural, essential oils have very powerful medicinal properties. If you’re pregnant or taking medications, it’s important to consult with your doctor before using essential oils, because they can have interactions. Always look for 100 percent pure essential oil from a source labeled “therapeutic grade,” to avoid any chemical additives that reduce the quality of the oil.