Essential Oils for Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress are natural responses to real or perceived threats to our safety and well-being. It’s normal to experience each of these states from time to time, especially during challenging or highly emotional events.
We need a certain amount of stress in our lives to facilitate motivation. However, most often when we say we are ‘stressed’, we’re experiencing symptoms that negatively affect body, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.1
Prolonged bouts of anxiety and stress can disrupt a person’s daily life and overall health. In these situations, people often seek stress and anxiety remedies from a range of sources. In 2012, approximately 33% of adults in the United States used a complementary health approach (which includes aromatherapy for anxiety) to resolve their health issues.2
Stress and anxiety can affect anyone, at any age. Diagnosis and treatment for persistent anxiety and/or stress should be discussed with a qualified professional.
For occasional or mild stress and anxiety, essential oils may be a suitable option. In most cases, essential oils for anxiety relief can be used interchangeably with those labelled as essential oils for stress.
Best Essential Oils for Anxiety
In recent years, scientific research has investigated the various effects of calming essential oils. Based on the latest scientific evidence, the following have been reported as the best essential oils for stress and anxiety relief. You might need to try a few different essential oils before discovering what essential oil is good for anxiety in your life.
Bergamot Essential Oil
Reported to be one of the most relaxing essential oils, bergamot is often described to have a calming and appealing aroma.
In a recent clinical trial, bergamot essential oil was shown to demonstrate a soothing effect on patients when inhaled. Specifically, it reduced the test subjects’ heart rate and cortisol levels.
Individuals can harness the beneficial properties of bergamot essential oil for stress and anxiety relief at home through a diffuser.
There is also evidence that bergamot essential oil may relax smooth muscle tissue in arteries and, therefore, help reduce or control blood pressure.2
Chamomile Essential Oil
One of the most valuable qualities of chamomile essential oil is its ability to relieve stress. Traditionally used as a natural sleep aid, recent scientific research has noted that the inhalation of chamomile essential oil may help decrease particular hormones, which are a by-product of stress. Chamomile essential oil may also promote feelings of sedation.
This data helps support some of the beneficial properties of chamomile essential oil for anxiety and stress relief.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Because of its natural, anti-depressant properties, frankincense may be a good choice of essential oil for anxiety attack relief.
In a 2008 study, it was noted that an active compound in frankincense essential oil – incensole acetate (IA) – may be responsible for some of the benefits of frankincense essential oil. The study noted that the compound had a positive influence on areas of the brain that are involved in anxiety and depression.
Overall, frankincense demonstrated a calming effect similar to antidepressants when tested on test subjects. Further, test subjects exposed to the frankincense demonstrated lower levels of anxiety.
Lavender Essential Oil
In recent years, the calming benefits of lavender essential oil have been increasingly studied in clinical trials. Known for its pleasing and soothing aroma, some consider it the best essential oil for anxiety, especially in children and the elderly. It is also one of the most effective essential oils for panic attacks.
A study investigating the levels of anxiety in a dental office lobby, noted that the aroma of lavender essential oil was more effective at decreasing patient anxiety than the aroma of orange essential oil, music, or nothing at all.
Lavender essential oil aromatherapy was also tested in a hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). Patients who were exposed to lavender aromatherapy while in the ICU reported less anxiety and improved mood. It should be noted that the lavender essential oil was only able to provide temporary anxiety relief, while the aroma was fresh and present in the environment.
For readers wondering how to use lavender oil for anxiety relief, it can be inhaled using a diffuser or add the essential oil to a carrier oil, and massage into the skin.
Neroli Essential Oil
The aroma of neroli essential oil hassubtle sweetness that makes it a good option for hypersensitive noses. Among neroli essential oil’s many benefits, its sedative and anti-stress properties suggest that it’s an effective essential oil for stress relief.
In a 2014 study, inhalation of neroli essential oil was shown to reduce anxiety in women during the early stages of labor. While the benefits of neroli essential oil were only tested on one population, preliminary results show promise for its use as a natural, anti-anxiety agent.
Patchouli Essential Oil
Patchouli is another popular stress relief essential oil and is considered by many to be one of the best oils for anxiety relief.
A 2002 study conducted on the benefits of patchouli essential oil noted that inhalation of the oil could decrease the ‘fight or flight’ response. This, combined with evidence of a sedative effect, supports the practice of using patchouli essential oil as a natural relaxant.
Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Traditionally used to promote relaxation, research conducted on ylang ylang essential oil shows that when applied topically, patients reported feeling calmer and more at ease.
The calming properties of ylang ylang essential oil make it useful for anxiety relief, alleviating insomnia, and a great essential oil for supporting deep sleep.
Essential Oil Blends
Blending essential oils for anxiety and stress relief not only provides richer and more complex aromas, it may help enhance the effects of each essential oil. When blending essential oils that help with anxiety, consider making enough for several uses. Be sure to properly store the blended oil in a dark, glass bottle.
If you want to make your own calming essential oil blend for stress and anxiety relief, try the following combinations:
For an easy essential oils relaxation blend, pair frankincense and bergamot together and dilute in a carrier oil for topical application. Users can also combine these stress relieving essentials oils in a diffuser.
For another essential oils anxiety relief blend, combine patchouli, orange, and lavender essential oil in a diffuser or with a carrier oil. Using essential oils for anxiety and panic attacks is considered a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).
How to Use Essential Oils for Anxiety
To alleviate stress and help reduce anxiety, essential oils can be used via inhalation or topical application. While both methods are considered forms of aromatherapy, aromatherapy for stress relief is often conducted through topical application (massage).
Aromatherapy massage combines the essential oil with a carrier oil such as almond, olive or jojoba oil. The carrier oil dilutes the essential oil and makes it easy to apply and massage into the skin.
The most effective essential oils for anxiety and relief using massage are: lavender, bergamot and frankincense.
Diffusing an essential oil for anxiety relief is considered to provide the fastest stress-relieving results. The diffuser warms the essential oil, dispersing molecules into the air and releasing the aroma.
If a diffuser isn’t available, add several drops of essential oil to a bowl of steaming water. Cover your head by placing a towel over the back of your and lean forward over the bowl. Inhale the steam for several minutes, keeping your face about 12 inches away from the bowl.
Essential Oils for Anxiety in Children
Essential oils may be an effective way to ease anxiety in children, provided the appropriate precautions are taken. Consider using essential oils to reduce a child’s anxiety instead of medication as they are:
- Easy to purchase and use
- Shows the child a non-invasive way to find relief from stress and anxiety
- Can also benefit those around the child (when essential oils are diffused), contributing to a more relaxed environment
Some essential oils are considered safe for children, and must be increasingly diluted prior to use. Always read the label carefully before use. As a general rule, reduce the number of essential oil drops by half for diffusion.
For massage, reduce the number of essential oil drops by half but use the same amount of carrier oil. Test a small amount on the bottom of the child’s foot and wait 10-15 minutes for any signs of allergy or sensitivity.
Some essential oils are not safe to use on children. Always consult with a health care professional before applying any essential oil on a child. Never use essential oils on a child’s face or hands. Do not leave a child unattended with essential oils.
Best Oils for Stress and Anxiety in Children:
- Lavender essential oil to ease anxiety and restlessness
- Bergamot essential oil to ease fear and anxiety
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Mayo Clinic. (2016, April 28). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behaviour. Retrieved April 14, 2017 from – View references
- Clarke,T.C., Black, L.I., Stussman, B.J., Barnes, P.M., & Nahin, R.L. (2015). Trends in the Use of Complementary Health Approaches Among Adults: United States, 2002–2012. National Health Statistics Reports. Number 79. Retrieved April 14, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr079.pdf