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25 Best Essential Oils For Anxiety - Definitive Guide (2022)

Overview

If you’re looking for a holistic approach to anxiety, essential oils could hold the key. Anxiety can sometimes help you to cope under stressful conditions by giving you a boost of energy to help you focus. However, if the feeling persists and is overwhelming, then it is categorized as an anxiety disorder.

Essential Oils For Anxiety

Characteristics such as genetics, stress, and environmental factors are believed to contribute to anxiety. The main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy, medication, or both. Additionally, essential oils have been used to alleviate symptoms in some people through the use of aromatherapy for anxiety.

Aromatherapy is often used as a natural remedy to relieve anxiety and stress through topical applications and inhalation. It is believed to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose which then send messages to the nervous system. Some people also believe that essential oils can have slight effects on balancing the chemical and energetic systems of the body through nutrients from the plants they are extracted from.

(If you are interested in a comprehensive history of aromatherapy, the science and plant intelligence, and the biosynthesis and composition of essential oils you can read the book Medical Aromatherapy: Healing with Essential Oils By Kurt Schnaubelt, which is available here.)

How Aromatherapy Helps Relieve Anxiety

The essential oil is diffused via an aromatherapy diffuser in a room for aromatherapy. The aroma is caused due to the aromatic molecules that enters the nose and through the olfactory nerves reaches the brain. It basically stimulates the nasal smell receptors which transmits the signal to the nervous system and then to the limbic system. Before proceeding further we should know what the limbic system is.

Understanding Limbic System

Here we try to understand the limbic system in a simple way. Limbic system is complex part of the brain beneath the temporal lobe. This is the part that stores memories, generates emotions and responds to stimulation. The limbic system has four parts - hypothalamus, amygdala, thalamus, and hippocampus. The part that stores memories and deals with emotions is the amygdala. These four parts are interconnected via the cingulate gyrus and information travels through these. The other important part of the brain is the hypothalamus, because this is where the hormones are developed. This is the place that sets your mood. Other than the mood the part also controls the sleep cycles, appetite, and the body temperature.

Improving Your Limbic System

As explained, the limbic system regulates emotions, moods and memories, hence a person’s behavior. It is your subconscious, and once you understand it, you will be able to make positive changes to life. Here’s a technical part. Limbic system is also called the mammalian brain and together with the reptilian brain it forms the subconscious mind.

Now, the main question – what happens when we inhale aroma? How do inhaling smells and fragrances affect our thinking?

How Essential Oil Aroma Works

Essential oils for anxiety can be used in two ways – inhalation or topical application. (Do not ingest essential oil to lower anxiety symptoms and help relieve anxiety and stress.) Inhalation is the faster method of the two. The hairs inside the nose have receptors. The aroma molecules get stuck to the hair and sends signals to the olfactory bulb, an accumulation of nerve cells in the limbic system. It’s time to introduce another term – bioavailability. The bioavailability of a substance is that which is absorbed by the body. Usually only 25% to 75% of the aromatic molecules is absorbed in the body.

The aroma of the oils stimulates the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which then releases and regulates hormone secretion. Let’s take the example of jasmine essential oil that ease anxiety. When the aroma of jasmine oil reaches the limbic system the hormones released effects the sleep. It also relaxes the muscles. People who inhale patchouli oil reported lower feelings of anxiety. (This is stated by using a clinically validated report.) This is a decision or response taken by the limbic system to this particular smell and the molecules of the compounds.

But, are these facts backed by evidence. Yes, it is. A research published online in 2016 and conducted at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Romania, evaluated the effects of essential oils, its potential therapeutic effects and its toxicity. The researchers concluded that not only was the oil effective for anxiety and stress, it could also be used for Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. Of course, more evidence based researches with human trials and peer reviews are needed. (1)

What essential oils are good for anxiety?

If you’re looking for a holistic approach and are thinking of using essential oils for anxiety, there are numerous essential oils that help with anxiety but here are 25 of the best essential oils for mental health.

1. Valerian Essential Oil

Valerian is a flowering plant that is native to Europe and Asia and has been traditionally used since the ancient world. It's known for its grounding abilities that combat nervous disorders and stress. Valerian is one of the best oils for anxiety as it has a mild sedative effect on the body and is commonly used to aid sleep disorders.

Valerian oil can help lower the symptoms of anxiety and depression when blended with holy basil or rose oil.

Scent Profile: Woody and balsamic

2. Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil for anxiety is one the most popular aromatherapy remedies. It also has a sedative effect and may help with sleep troubles. Lavender aromatherapy is thought to calm anxiety by affecting the limbic system, the part of the brain that regulates emotions.

Scent Profile: Floral and herbaceous

A report published in 2009 on essential oils, including lavender oil, and anxiolytic aromatherapy.(2)

3. Jasmine Essential Oil

Widely used in perfume making since the times of Cleopatra, Jasmine oil can have a calming effect without causing sleepiness. Its sweet scent can evoke feelings of romance and is a great scent to diffuse to get into the mood for loving moments with your other half.

Pregnant women who experience anxiety during labor (the first stage of labor) can reduce symptoms of anxiety by inhaling the aroma of jasmine and orange oil. Essential oils are commonly used to promote relaxation and reduce pain and anxiety.

Scent Profile: Floral and sweet

4. Basil Essential Oil

The phenol compounds in basil may relieve anxiety and provide a sedative effect. In aromatherapy, the scent of basil is thought to calm the mind and relieve stress.

Scent Profile: Herbaceous and refreshing

5. Bergamot Essential Oil

A popular ingredient in perfumes and Earl Grey tea, Bergamot for anxiety has a zesty and uplifting scent that relieves stress and improves moods. However, it may increase the skin's sensitivity to sunburn so we don't recommend applying this oil topically if you plan on going out in the sun.

The oil comes from bergamot oranges and can be blended with lemon oil, rose essential oil or rosemary essential oil to lower high cortisol levels. The essential oil can help lower anxiety levels and promote calmness and relaxation. It can be applied topically after mixing with almond oil to reduce anxiety levels.

Scent Profile: Sweet, tangy and citrusy

6. Roman Chamomile Essential Oil

Across cultures from the Greeks to Vikings, daisy-like chamomile was believed to heal the mind and body. In Rome, the flower’s aroma was used by soldiers to feel courageous before fights. Today it's well known for its relaxing effects and pleasant aroma.

Scent Profile: Floral and herbaceous

7. Rose Otto Essential Oil

The scent of roses is known to soothe the senses. Treat yourself to a relaxing footbath with a few drops of Rose Otto oil. It's reported to reduce anxiety in pregnant women during labor so it’s sure to give you the calm vibes you need.

Scent Profile: Sweet and floral

8. Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver oil’s aroma brings calm and centers you for improved focus. As such, it’s one of the best essential oils for sleep and anxiety problems.

Scent Profile: Earthy, smokey and woodsy

9. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Ylang Ylang oil is made from the tropical flowers of Cananga trees and has an exotic scent that's great for relaxation and stress relief. It is popularly used in aromatherapy to uplift moods and cultivate feelings of romance. If you need a Ylang Ylang substitue, Jasmine is definitely the closest you can get. But, if you don't have Jasmine, either Rose, Neroli, or Geranium are close substitutes.

Scent Profile: Floral and sweet

10. Frankincense Essential Oil

Known for its spiritual benefits, Frankincense oil has a grounding scent that can significantly alleviate anxiety and stress. Made from the Boswellia Serrata tree, brave locals in countries like Somalia would travel on rugged mountains for just a few kilograms of its prized resin.

Scent Profile: Warm and woodsy with balsamic notes

11. Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary sage is said to have gotten its unique, fresh scent from the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite and possesses clary sage spiritual benefits. A hormone balancer, clary sage oil is said to lower stress hormone levels and is therefore one of the best essential oils for anxiety and sleep troubles..

Scent Profile: Herbaceous and earthy with floral notes

12. Patchouli Essential Oil

Patchouli is used in Ayurvedic medicine to manage stress, anxiety and other ailments. Patchouli is great on its own but is popularly combined with lavender to create moments of respite.

Scent Profile: Earthy, woodsy and herbaceous

13. Egyptian Geranium Essential Oil

The Egyptians have long used geranium to beautify their skin for momentous occasions from weddings to great feasts. Today it’s often used as a scent in soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes. Egyptian Geranium oil has sedative effects and may be used to help lower feelings of stress or anxiety.

Scent Profile: Sweet and floral with refreshing fruity notes

14. Marjoram Essential Oil

Marjoram is a perennial herb thought to have originated from the Mediterranean. It was often utilized by the ancient Greeks to treat many ailments as well as to crown young couples during wedding ceremonies. There’s little scientific proof to support its effectiveness in relieving anxiety. However, it’s still a popular option amongst aromatherapists.

Scent Profile: Minty, herbaceous and spicy

15. Fennel Essential Oil

An evergreen plant native to the Mediterranean, fennel was vastly used in culinary by the ancient Romans and Greeks for its rich flavors. In ancient China, fennel was also used as a treatment for snake bites. Fennel supplements help with menopause symptoms such as anxiety, hot flashes, sleep problems, and depression. It’s indefinite if inhaling fennel oil would have the same result, but it might be worth a try.

Scent Profile: Sweet and peppery

16. Mandarin Essential Oil

Ancient Asian communities used Mandarin oil as a beauty elixir to fade scars. Today this calming citrus oil helps you relax and fall asleep with ease.

Scent Profile: Sweet and citrusy

17. Mace Essential Oil

Native to the tropical rainforests of Indonesia, Mace is the outer seed covering of nutmeg. Traditional Arabians used mace for intermittent fevers, diarrhea, and insomnia. When inhaled before bedtime, this spicy oil relaxes the mind for some much-needed rest.

Scent Profile: Sweet and spicy

18. Ho Wood Essential Oil

A tall evergreen plant native to China, Ho Wood oil is made from the bark of the Ho Wood tree. It has been widely used by the Ancient Chinese to eliminate odors and also create a relaxing environment. It's an earthy-scented bedtime must-have that promises to calm the mind for relaxing sleep.

Scent Profile: Earthy and floral

19. Spikenard Essential Oil

Exuding an earthy, calming scent, Spikenard is a cherished plant used in religious ceremonies to bring devotion, enlightenment, and deep inner peace to believers. It is also used in Nepalese tribes to heal the body and soul. A comforting remedy for stressed-out souls, Spikenard Oil calms anxiety and promotes sleep.

Scent Profile: Earthy and woodsy with musky notes

20. Vanilla Oleoresin Essential Oil

Vanilla was an ancient Aztec spice from Mexico but is now often used in baking and making delicious infusions. Vanilla Oleoresin oil is sweet and sensual, perfect for setting the mood for allowing you and your partner to soothe stress and anxiety for a romantic night.

Scent Profile: Creamy and sweet

21. Cilantro Essential Oil

Not to be confused with coriander, cilantro refers to the leaves on the coriander. Cilantro oil's fresh and comforting scent is used to soothe stress, nausea, and discomfort.

Scent Profile: Herbaceous, sweet and fresh

22. Sandalwood Essential Oil

Sandalwood is a holy symbol in Indian cultural practices often offered to the gods and goddesses. The result is a blessing of mental clarity and happiness to the worshippers. This woody helps calm the mind and boosts concentration for productive days at work.

Scent Profile: Woody and earthy

23. Calamus Essential Oil

A plant with ancient origins dating back to 1300BC, Calamus has since been popularized in traditional Chinese and Indian remedies for treating memory disorders and improving learning performance. Calamus oil also soothes the mind from stress and boosts mental clarity.

Scent Profile: Earthy, woody and spicy

24. Petitgrain Essential Oil

Petitgrain oil is derived from bitter orange trees that are loved by Spanish families for their many different uses. A single tree can yield ingredients for natural perfume, emotional healing and cooking. This oil is a stress-soother and mood-booster for smoother days ahead.

Scent Profile: Floral and woodsy

25. Cardamom Essential Oil

Cardamom was a treasured Scandanavian spice loved by Vikings. The spice is highly valued and might explain their remarkable talent for sailing across long trade routes without getting seasick. Cardamom oil is an incredible soother for stress, anxiety and even nausea.

Scent Profile: Warm, spicy and slightly sweet

How To Use Essential Oils For Anxiety?

Topically

Using essential oils on the skin is a great way to soothe stress and anxiety but just make sure to dilute it with a skin-friendly carrier oil first! A good rule of thumb is 2 drops of essential oils to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. Consider doing a patch test beforehand, to be on the safe side.

Diffuser

Diffusing essential oils is the easiest and most common aromatherapy method. Just add a few drops of essential oils into your diffuser and breathe in the benefits.

A research published in 2016 in the Nephro – Urology Monthly concluded that performing aromatherapy lowered the anxiety levels in patients undergoing hemodialysis. (3)

DIY

Make yourself a relaxing foot bath by adding Epsom salts and a few drops of essential oil into a bucket of warm water. Sit back, soak and relax.

How To Use Essential Oils Safely

Essential oils are great for self-care routines. However, we should also take care and follow caution when using them to keep ourselves and loved ones safe from its side effects. Generally essential oils are safe, but a few guidelines must be followed to avoid any adverse effects. Also, the oils are different, made up of different compounds. Some people may be allergic to certain compounds while others may be allergic to others. Concentrated oil must be bought after careful deliberation. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. Read the label and instructions to make sure you’re using the oil correctly.
  2. While buying essential oils be wary of the terms fragrance oil, perfume oil and natural identical oil.
  3. The term pure essential oil can be widely seen on the bottles. These maybe made from substandard sources.
  4. Ensure that you are not allergic to any ingredients or compounds in the oil.
  5. Make sure to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil for safe application.
  6. Do not add too much of the oil in the diffuser.
  7. Avoid using essential oils of sensitive areas like the eyes and nose.
  8. Don’t apply it on broken skin either unless it’s mentioned on the bottle or label.
  9. Keep it out of reach of kids and fur kids.
  10. Do not diffuse the oil near kids and pets. Consult a doctor before doing so.
  11. Some oils may make you sensitive to sun damage, so be sure to load up on SPF.
  12. Check the label to see if the oil is photo-toxic.
  13. The oil may cause embryotoxicity; consult a doctor before use.
  14. Always do a small patch test before topical application.
  15. If aromatherapy is performed directly from the bottle, make sure that the oil does not touch the skin.
  16. The common unwanted effects caused by essential oils up on topical application are rashes, redness and swelling.
  17. Many ssential oils can trigger side effects. If you show signs of irritation, stop use and speak to a doctor before using essential oils.
  18. Some essential oils cannot be used by people with kidney problems, whereas some essential oils cannot be used by those with blood disorders. It is always advisable to consult a doctor about your essential oil needs and predisposition for diseases.
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