Anxiety is an emotion that we all feel from time to time. It is described as “intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.” When we are anxious, our heart rate rises, our breath rate increases, and we may even begin sweating.
Anxiety is a normal thing to experience in stressful situations, such as when public speaking or taking a test. Anxiety can become a disorder, however, when feelings become excessive, all-consuming, and start to interfere with daily living.
Our modern society is very demanding of our time and energy, and stress levels are at an all-time high. Likewise, anxiety is experienced more frequently than ever by most people. It is important that we learn ways to manage our anxiety and train ourselves to experience calmness in stressful situations, instead of responding with fear or worry.
One of the greatest tools for helping us with this is meditation. You can read our blog “How to Practice Meditation” if you’d like to learn more about meditation and how to get started with a meditation practice. Another great tool for managing our anxiety may be to use certain essential oils.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are essentially plant extracts that are made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves or fruit) to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. It can take several pounds of a plant to produce a single bottle of essential oil. In addition to creating scent, essential oils perform other functions in plants, too, such as killing bacteria, reducing headaches, or stimulating the immune system—it all depends on what plant the essential oil is extracted from, and what properties that plant has.
What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils for therapeutic benefit. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries. When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.
Essential oils have been used to alleviate a variety of conditions such as:
- Low appetite
- Dry mouth
How to Use Essential Oils for Anxiety
Various essential oils contain properties within them that can help to calm you down and reduce your anxiety. As mentioned above, molecules in certain essential oils can travel from the olfactory nerves in your nose directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. Essential oils that have calming or sedative properties, when inhaled, can trigger your brain to produce a state of calm and ease.
A great way to use essential oils for anxiety and depression is by using an essential oil diffuser. An essential oil diffuser is also known as an aromatherapy diffuser. To put it simply, it is a device that breaks essential oils down into smaller molecules, dispersing them into the air for a pleasant or calming effect. It is a great way to fill a room with the scent of the essential oil, and you can even inhale the steam directly.
What Essential Oils Are Good For Anxiety?
Essential oils have many uses, but helping to reduce anxiety is a major one. Listed here are the top 7 best essential oils for anxiety:
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil is one of the most common essential oils, and perhaps the top essential oil for reducing anxiety. Lavender essential oil can produce a calming, relaxing effect and is considered to be an oil that is restorative to the nervous system. It helps with stress, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous tension and nervous stomach.
There has actually been a number of clinical trials on the benefits of inhaling lavender essential oil that indicate a reduction in stress and anxiety. One study found that lavender effectively reduces generalized anxiety comparable to 0.5 mg/daily dosage of lorazepam, a common pharmaceutical drug used for anxiety disorders.
There is growing evidence suggesting that lavender oil may also be an effective remedy in treatment of several neurological disorders. Several animal and human studies suggest anxiolytic, mood stabilizer, sedative, analgesic, and anticonvulsive and neuroprotective properties for lavender.
To promote relaxation, you can simply add lavender oil to a diffuser, bath water or a spray bottle filled with water. You can also use lavender topically on your wrists, temples and back of neck.
Rose (Rosa damascena) essential oil is another excellent oil for anxiety. Rose has long been associated with the heart, and rose oil has often been used to settle emotions in the heart. The scent of rose is often perceived as very relaxing, and next to lavender, it is the most popular oil for relieving anxiety and depression, as well as for helping with panic attacks, grieving and shock.
A study in 2011 observed the effects of self-massage with a mix of essential oils, including rose oil, on menstrual pain and anxiety. It found that aromatherapy self-massage of the abdomen with the essential oil mixture was associated with lower levels of pain and anxiety.
Another study examined the use of a rose aromatherapy footbath in pregnant women during labor. Women who used the aromatherapy footbath reported lower levels of anxiety than those that used a footbath containing warm water only.
To treat anxiety, stress, or depression, you can either inhale rose oil using a diffuser or dab it lightly on your chest, neck, and wrists. Be sure to blend it with a carrier oil first like coconut, almond, or jojoba oil before it touches the skin.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a common herb used for relaxing the nervous system and promoting sleep. It also has anti-anxiety properties. Valerian essential oil comes from the roots of the plant and has a woody, or earthy, scent. Some individuals may find this scent to be unpleasant, nevertheless, it is a wonderful oil for anxiety as it contains compounds that promote sleep and calm the nerves.
One review of seven studies on valerian looked at its benefits for sleep and other associated disorders. Six out of the seven studies found positive outcomes when valerian was used as a supplement for anxiety. To use, simply add a few drops of valerian oil to an essential oil diffuser and inhale. As valerian has sedative properties, it may make you feel sleepy or relaxed.
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), also known as spikenard, is in the same plant family as valerian, and like valerian, it can also help to reduce anxiety. The essential oil is made from the roots of the plant and also has an earthy or woody scent like valerian. Jatamansi is commonly used in ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for insomnia and to help calm the mind.
According to a recent study in mice, a 7-day regimen of jatamansi extract had significant anti-anxiety effects. An increase in gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and monoamine neurotransmitters were also observed in the brain, indicating that the anxiety-reducing effects of jatamansi operate through this pathway.
Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) is a flower with a very distinct and lovely floral scent. This flower is commonly used as a base for a variety of different teas. Jasmine oil is often used in perfumes and other cosmetic products. One 2017 study on jasmine extract found that it significantly lowered anxiety in rats. Another 2013 study on jasmine oil found that inhaling the oil can promote a sense of well-being. Unlike other essential oils used for anxiety, jasmine oil is thought to calm the nervous system without causing sleepiness. In fact, it can actually have a stimulating effect on some individuals.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a type of orange that is a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. Bergamot has a lovely citrus scent, and bergamot oil is typically derived from the peel or zest of the fruit. Bergamot is commonly found in Earl Grey tea and has a distinctive floral taste and aroma. Bergamot essential oil is calming and often used to treat depression by providing energy; however, it can also help with insomnia and induce relaxation.
Interestingly, bergamot has been shown to reduce corticosterone response to stress in rats, and another interesting study found that applying blended essential oil that includes bergamot to participants helps in treating depression or anxiety. The blended essential oil consisted of lavender and bergamot oils.
According to one study conducted in 2015, both animal and human trials have found that bergamot helps relieve anxiety and improve mood. Researchers have also found that 15 minutes of exposure to bergamot essential oil promotes an increase in positive feelings.
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a type of flower that is commonly used as a tea, and it is well-known for its calming and relaxing effects. The oil of chamomile also offers calming benefits. One 2017 study observed using chamomile supplements for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Researchers found that chamomile reduced the symptoms of mild to moderate GAD. However, it did not reduce the rate of relapse of anxiety symptoms. The scent of chamomile can be very calming and relaxing, so one of the best ways to use chamomile essential oil for anxiety is by putting it into an essential oil diffuser.
Essential Oil Blends for Anxiety
Each of the above mentioned essential oils can be used on their own for anxiety. However, some may wish to use a blend. A great thing about essential oils is that they often enhance each other, so a blend is a great way to get added anti-anxiety effects. Some common essential oil blends for anxiety include:
- Lavender & Bergamot
- Lavender & Rose
- Chamomile & Jasmine
- Valerian & Rose
- Bergamot & Jatamansi
Using Essential Oils for Anxiety
Essential oils have many therapeutic properties. Helping with anxiety is just one of many great uses of essential oils. Perhaps the best way to use essential oils for anxiety is with aromatherapy. When the scent of an essential oil is inhaled, molecules enter the nasal cavities and stimulate a firing of mental response in the limbic system of the brain. These stimulants regulate stress or calming responses, such as heart rate, breathing patterns, production of hormones and blood pressure. Aromatherapy can be obtained by using an aromatherapy diffuser, using oils in a bath, direct inhalations of essential oils, using hot water vapor, or using a perfume or cologne.
Many essential oils can also be ingested by the mouth; however, it is critical to make sure that the oils you use are safe and pure. Make sure that they are food grade and specifically state on the label that they are safe for consumption, as many oils on the market may be diluted or blended with synthetics that are unsafe for ingesting. Research suggests that the most effective way to consume essential oils is to add a drop of oil in a glass of water or in a teaspoon with honey.
Many also prefer topical uses of essential oils and simply place an essential oil on the skin, hair, mouth, teeth, nails or mucous membranes of the body. When the oils touch the skin, they penetrate rapidly. Since they are so potent, it is important to dilute and blend with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond, jojoba, olive, avocado or coconut oil. You can apply the blend directly to an affected area, on the bottoms of the feet, rims of the ears, using compresses, in baths or through massage.
To reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, using calming essential oils is easy and all-natural. Some of the most best essential oils for anxiety include lavender, rose, valerian, jatamansi, jasmine, bergamot, and chamomile. These oils can be used aromatically to help you reduce stress and create a peaceful, relaxing environment, and they can also be used topically by placing a few drops on your wrists and temples.
Anxiety is something we all struggle with at times, but with tools like essential oils under our belt, we are better equipped with ways to manage our anxiety and produce calm and ease for ourselves whenever we need to.