Proven Essential Oils for Anxiety Based on Science and How to Use Them

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Proven Essential Oils for Anxiety Based on Science and How to Use Them

Essential oils are good for treating anxiety because their powerful scents affect our emotions and mood. Essential oils such as lavender oil, chamomile, valerian, bergamot, and orange essential oil have a sedative effect that calms nerves. The uplifting aromas of essential oils can also help improve mood, help you sleep better, and reduce anxiety.


There are many ways you can use essential oils for their calming, relaxing, and sedating effect. You can make an essential oil blend using a carrier oil and massage the stress-relief essential oil on your temples. You could also add a combination of anti-anxiety oils to your diffuser. Or, you could ease your tension away by relaxing in a warm bath that has a few drops of essential oils added.

In this article, you will find out the best essential oils for anxiety based on scientific evidence. At the end of the article you will find essential oil recipe for anxiety and depression.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plant leaves, roots, peel, bark, or flowers. The liquid extract contains volatile oils that give off powerful therapeutic aromas.

Researchers say that essential oils contain a mixture of phenols, hydrocarbons, alcohol, and terpenes. These potent compounds give off aromatic vapors that help to restore mental and physical balance. (1)

Scientists also say that inhaling or massaging essential oils on the skin helps to relieve stress and rejuvenate the mind. (1)

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that aromatherapy essential oils have an effect on the mind when inhaled directly or indirectly. The calming effect of essential oils seems to happen when smell receptors in the nose (olfactory) are stimulated and send messages to the part of the brain that controls emotions. (2)

How Do Essential Oils Help with Anxiety?

There are a number of ways that aromatherapy essential oils help you relax and alleviate anxiety.

Researchers and scientists have long been aware of the powerful effect of scent and aromas on emotions. Research has shown that our sense of smell affects our mood, stress levels, and mental performance. Electrical signals transmitted to the brain via smell affect brain functions such as thought processes, emotions, and memory. (3)

There is also evidence that aromatherapy essential oils for anxiety also help when massaged into the skin.

One study found that blended essential oils could have a calming effect on patients. Massaging with calming essential oils helped to relax patients, lower blood pressure, and reduce pulse rate. When compared to massaging with a plain carrier oil, the essential oil blend was more effective for reducing anxiety. (4)

Other studies have shown that calming essential oils can also help reduce symptoms of depression. (5)

A word of warning: Always contact your doctor before you decide to stop your medication and solely rely on aromatherapy to ease your symptoms and negative emotions.

You can also refer to my previous article about stress and anxiety, as well as my article about depression for more natural options to treat these issues.

The Best Essential Oils for Anxiety

Let’s look in more detail at some of the best essential oils for stress, anxiety, or depression that you can use. Using these relaxing essential oils in a diffuser, as a massage, in a calming bath, or inhaling directly can help calm nerves and increase your sense of well-being.

Lavender Essential Oil Helps Relieve Anxiety Disorders

Essential oil from lavender is one of the best essential oils for lowering anxiety levels and relieving stress.

The journal Mental Health Clinician reported that lavender essential oil has many anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) benefits. Compounds in lavender oil such as linalool and linalyl acetate inhibit neuroreceptors that are associated with anxiety. Inhaling lavender oil aromas has a calming effect without acting as a sedative. (6)

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A review of its calming properties found that lavender oil is a relaxing essential oil that helps protect the nervous system. Inhaling lavender scent is good for anxiety as it helps to reduce agitation, treat social anxiety disorders, and has an anti-depressant effect. (7)

Lavender essential oil is also good for helping treat insomnia and improve sleep patterns. In fact, one study showed that lavender oil aromatherapy could be as effective as benzodiazepines (sleeping pill) in helping improve sleep quality. (7)

One clinical trial involving 140 women found that lavender aromatherapy can help to treat postnatal depression and reduce stress and anxiety. (8)

Lavender oil is also one of the best essential oils to help cope with panic attacks and anxiety disorders. (6)

How to use lavender essential oil to help with anxiety

To help calm your mind and relax, inhale lavender oil aromas straight from the bottle. You can also rub 2 drops of lavender essential oil between your palms, cup your hands to your mouth and nose, and breathe deeply.

Bergamot Oil Improves Feelings of Well-Being

Bergamot essential oil is a calming essential oil that helps to improve mood due to its uplifting scent.

One study on the calming effects of bergamot essential oil on rats found that sniffing the essential oil helps to stop anxious feelings. The researchers noticed that bergamot aromas have a similar effect to anti-anxiety medications like diazepam. (9)

Another study found that the anti-stress effect of bergamot essential oil was due to the fact that it helps inhibit the stress hormone corticosterone. (10)

There is also evidence to suggest that breathing in bergamot aromas reduces anxiety in humans. One mental health clinic found that diffusing bergamot scent in their waiting room induced feelings of well-being and had a positive effect on mental health. (11)

How to use bergamot essential oil for anxiety

Blend 2-3 drops of bergamot essential oil with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil or other carrier oil. Gently massage the essential oil into your temples and behind your ears to help reduce social anxiety. Bergamot also helps with feelings of pain, anxiety, depression, and sadness.

Basil Essential Oil for Anxiety

Essential oil extracts from various types of the basil plant have relaxing scents that can greatly lower your anxiety levels.

Researchers found that basil (Ocimum basilicum) essential oil has a sedating effect and can help provide support during anxiety. The scientists identified phenols in basil extracts as having an anti-anxiety effect. (12)

A type of basil called holy basil, or tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), helps reduce stress and the effects of negative emotions. Trials on the effects of holy basil found that they have anti-depressant effects similar to some pharmaceutical antidepressants. (13)

Clinical trials on humans have found that holy basil extracts treat stress, improve sleep quality, and alleviate anxiety. (14)

How to use basil oil for anxiety and depression

Put a few drops of holy basil essential oil on a handkerchief or tissue and inhale deeply when you feel anxious.

Valerian Essential Oil is Good for Anxiety and Depression

One of the most popular essential oils for treating symptoms of depression is valerian. Inhaling valerian’s calming scents can help combat negative emotions, stress, and feelings of fear.

Scientists found that valerenic acid in valerian extracts have a strong anti-anxiety effect. Valerenic acid helps to regulate GABA-A receptors which are connected with mental health and the physical effects of stress. (15, 16)

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One study involving 20 healthy women found that an aromatherapy hand massage using a valerian and lemon essential oil blend was effective in lowering stress levels. (17)

How to use valerian oil for anxiety relief

Put a few drops of valerian essential oil in your diffuser and inhale to help lower negative anxious feelings and relive stress.

Jasmine Oil Helps Reduce Anxiety

Jasmine essential oil has a wonderful floral scent that has calming effects to help lift feelings of apprehension and nervousness.

The Journal of Health Resources reported that jasmine aromatherapy essential oil has a positive effect on the nervous system. Researchers found that the effect of jasmine essential oil on humans helped boost positive feelings and at the same time alleviate drowsiness. The researchers concluded that jasmine essential oil boosts mood states and stimulates the function of the nervous system. (18)

How jasmine essential oil can be used for anxiety support

Put a few drops of jasmine essential oil on a tissue and breathe in the aromas whenever you need to improve your mood or relax your mind.

Geranium Essential Oil for Stress

Breathing in geranium oil aromas can help you cope when you are under intense physical or emotional stress.

Many researchers have found that the calming effect of geranium essential oil helps patients cope with anxiety in hospital. For example, a randomized clinical trial found that inhaling geranium essential oil for 20 minutes a day helps to lower anxiety after a heart attack. (19)

One study on 100 women found that aromatherapy essential oils for anxiety can help to reduce stress during childbirth. In the study, inhaling geranium essential oil lowered blood pressure and had an anti-anxiety effect while in labor. (20)

How to use geranium oil aromas to calm your nerves

Try inhaling the geranium oil scent straight from the bottle when you feel anxious, tense, or need support during a stressful situation.

Frankincense Essential Oil Helps with Stress and Anxiety

Frankincense oil has a strong scent that is good for anxiety and can help you feel calmer.

Scientists have discovered that extracts from frankincense affect certain neurons in the brain that help regulate emotions. This has an anxiolytic effect that can help relieve some symptoms of depression. Inhaling frankincense extracts helps to have a positive effect on a person’s emotional state. (21)

One study found that an essential oil blend of frankincense, bergamot, and lavender helped reduce depression and anxiety when used in a hand massage oil.

How to use frankincense for depression and anxiety

Combine 2 drops of frankincense oil with a drop or two of lavender essential oil and 1 tablespoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond oil. Massage a small amount of the calming essential oil mixture onto your chest to help alleviate anxiety and boost your mood.

Clary Sage Essential Oil May Help Improve Mood and Alleviate Depression

One essential oil that really helps boost well-being is clary sage because it is good for stress, fear, and grief.

Clary sage is one of the essential oils that has an antidepressant effect and is good for anxiety. Researchers found that clary sage essential oil can be used by people with depression because it affects levels of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. (22)

How to use clary sage oil to calm the mind and relieve stress

Add a few drops of clary sage oil to your diffuser to inhale at work or at home to uplift your mood and calm your nerves. Clary sage inhalation can help to relieve negative feelings of failure, fear, or rejection.

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Lemon Essential Oil May Lower Anxiety Levels

Extracts from lemons are one of the many essential oils for anxiety that you can use in aromatherapy.

One study on animal subjects found that long-term exposure to lemon essential oil helped to reduce anxiety and even increased the pain threshold. Scientists also noted that the stress hormone corticosterone was lower after frequently inhaling lemon essential oil. (23)

How to use uplifting lemon oil aromas to relieve anxiety

Regularly use lemon essential oil in your diffuser to cope with stress and emotionally uplift your spirits.

You can also add a few drops of lemon essential oil to a bowl of hot water to inhale the therapeutic anti-stress aromas.

Lemongrass Essential Oil Helps Calm the Nervous System

The refreshing aromas of lemongrass essential oil vapors help to relieve nervous tension and provide natural stress relief.

In one clinical trial, 40 men were divided into groups and given various essential oil aromas to inhale. Scientists noticed that the group who received the lemongrass aromatherapy oils coped better under stressful conditions. Inhaling tea tree oil had no anti-anxiety effect. (24)

How to use lemongrass aromatherapy for anxiety

If you are feeling stressed out or you need to calm your nerves, mix 2 or 3 drops of lemongrass essential oil with a tablespoon of olive oil or other carrier oil. Gently massage onto your temples and wrists for stress relief.

Orange and Neroli Essential Oils Relieves Anxiety and Improve Mood

The relaxing scent of orange essential oil and neroli (bitter orange) is a great natural remedy to uplift your mood and ease feelings of fear and apprehension.

Various trials have shown that calming essential oils for anxiety such as orange oil help to deal with anxiety in stressful situations. For example, inhaling orange essential oil helps reduce stress during childbirth. (25)

Other studies have shown that using aromatherapy orange essential oils in a dentist’s room helps reduce anxiety and stress in children during dental treatment. (26)

One study found that bitter orange essential oil can be good for panic attacks and to help manage anxiety disorders. (27)

A 2018 study found that bitter orange extracts were just as effective as lavender extracts in relieving anxiety in postmenopausal women. (28)

How to use orange or bitter orange essential oil for panic disorders

Put a drop of bitter orange oil on your palm and rub your palms together to warm and spread the oil. Cup your hands together and place over your nose. Take 6-8 deep breaths to help reduce feelings of panic, anxiety, or depression.

Chamomile Essential Oil Has Anti-Depressive Effect

Chamomile is a floral herb that is well-known for its soothing effects. It comes as no surprise that essential oil extracted from chamomile flowers also helps to relax your mind and help you sleep better.

A study on the relaxing effects of chamomile’s uplifting scent on humans found that chamomile essential oil promotes good sleep and lowers anxiety levels. An anti-anxiety essential oil blend was made from lavender, chamomile, and neroli (bitter orange) oils. The aromatherapy treatment helped to reduce anxiety before a surgical operation. (29)

One study on rats found that using chamomile as an essential oil for stress is an effective natural treatment and can also boost the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs. (30)

How to use chamomile essential oil for anxiety

To help manage symptoms of depression and reduce stress, make a chamomile calming oil by mixing 3-4 drops of chamomile essential oil with 1 tablespoon sweet almond oil. Gently massage onto your temples and the back of your neck to help calm anxious tension.

Rose Essential Oil Helps Reduce Anxiety

Rose petals have a relaxing scent that becomes even more potent in rose essential oil.

Scientists found that constant exposure to rose aromas had an anxiolytic effect on stressed-out rodents. Scientists think that rose essential oil increases serotonin levels in the brain which helps to improve mood and lower anxiety. (31)

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One study found that a warm foot bath containing rose essential oil helped pregnant women cope with anxiety during the first stage of labor. (32)

How to use rose oil to relax and soothe anxiety

Add 10-12 drops of rose essential oil per 1 oz. (30 ml) of carrier oil, and add to a warm bath. Soak for 15-20 minutes to reduce nervous tension and increase feelings of well-being.

Peppermint Essential Oil Helps Alleviate Mental Burnout

Peppermint oil is one of the many essential oils that helps with anxiety, tension, stress, and feelings of panic.

Inhaling peppermint oil can help to energize your mind and cope with mental stress better. Researchers found that an essential oil blend of peppermint, basil, and helichrysum helped lower feelings of mental exhaustion and burnout. (33)

Various studies have shown that burnout is connected with greater emotional stress, depression, and panic disorders. (34)

How to use peppermint oil to reduce psychological stress

Whenever you are feeling stressed out because of a difficult task, inhale peppermint oil straight from the bottle to help energize your mind.

Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil Has a Relaxing Effect to Help Release Tension

The relaxing aromas of ylang-ylang help to restore feelings of calm, well-being, and relaxation.

One study involving 40 adults found that an essential oil blend for anxiety using ylang-ylang essential oil relieved tension, stress, and nervousness. The effect of ylang-ylang aromatherapy massage also lowered blood pressure. The researchers concluded that ylang-ylang essential oil could be an effective anti-depression treatment. (35)

Inhaling ylang-ylang essential oil scent also stimulates positive hormones in the brain that help reverse symptoms of anxiety. (36)

How to use ylang ylang oil for its calming effect on your nerves

Whenever you feel that you have frayed nerves or your anxiety levels are rising, put a few drops of ylang-ylang in your diffuser.

Alternatively, you can put 10 drops of ylang-ylang in 1 oz. of carrier oil along with a cup of Epsom salts and add to a warm bath to ease your tension away.

Vetiver Essential Oil May Help You Relax Easier

Vetiver essential oil has a calming effect that can help you cope with anxiety and stress.

One lab trial found that the sedative effects of vetiver aromas were similar to the effects of diazepam (medicine for anxiety) in helping to give support during anxiety. (37)

How to use vetiver oil to reduce anxiety

Put a few drops of vetiver oil in your diffuser at home to benefit from the relaxing effects of the essential oil.

General Information on Using Essential Oils for Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

You can use essential oils for relaxation and for their calming effect in the following ways.

Diffuse

Add a few drops to your diffuser and diffuse throughout the day to uplift your spirits or calm your mind.

Diffuse at night in your bedroom to promote a better night’s rest or to ease your thoughts. Or, add a few drops to your pillow to inhale while you sleep.

Inhalation

Add 1 to 2 drops of your favorite calming essential oil into the palms of your hands and rub them together to spread the oil. Cup them over your nose and take 4-6 deep and slow breaths to reduce feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety.

You can also add 2 to 4 drops of essential oils on a cotton ball and secure in a ziplock bag to take with you. You can also inhale essential oils for anxiety straight from the bottle whenever you need support for anxiety.

Massage

Add 10-12 drops of your favorite calming essential oil blend to 1 oz. carrier oil (sweet almond, jojoba, or grapeseed oil are all good examples) for a relaxing and uplifting massage.

Calming Essential Oil Rub

Add 4-5 drops of your favorite essential oil(s) to 1 tablespoon carrier oil or natural unscented lotion. Rub the mixture onto your neck, chest, bottoms of your feet, wrists, and behind the ears to find relief from anxiety, stress, or depression.

Relaxing Bath

Add 10-12 drops of your relaxing essential oil blend to 1 oz. carrier oil and add to your bathtub to alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression. If you have a sensitive skin, reduce the amount of essential oils in the blend before adding them to your bathtub.

This will give your bath an added moisturizing effect and protect your sensitive skin. Do not add the oils to running water as they will evaporate at a higher rate. Add them after you have run the bath and gently mix them in by hand.

More Ideas on How to Use Essential Oils for Anxiety

  • Add a few drops to your favorite lotion.
  • Add a few drops to a tissue or cotton ball and place in your car.
  • Put 2 drops of your favorite essential oil(s) on a cloth and put it in the dryer for nice smelling clothes.
  • Add 2 to 3 drops on a cotton ball and put in the vacuum cleaner.

Powerful Essential Oil Blend for Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

You can create an essential oil blend for emotional support to alleviate apprehension, fear, negative feelings, or anxiety.

  • 3 drops each of lavender, ylang-ylang, geranium and orange essential oils
  • 1 oz. (30 ml) of carrier oil

Combine these essential oils and carrier oil into a small glass bottle (use dark glass to avoid oxidation). You can double the amounts for a larger amount. Whenever you need to calm your mind and relieve stress, open the bottle to take a sniff or use as a massage blend.

To help alleviate stress, anxiety, and tension after a hard day’s work, you can add the blend to your bathtub.

Side Effects and Precautions

Although there are many essential oils for anxiety, it is important to remember that all essential oils are liquids containing highly concentrated compounds.

Therefore, you should never apply essential oils undiluted to your skin to help relieve anxiety or treat other health conditions. Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, extra virgin olive oil, or jojoba oil.

Some essential oils can cause an adverse skin reaction. Calming essential oils from citrus fruits such as bergamot, lemon, and orange can also increase sun sensitivity.

If you are pregnant, you should speak with your doctor before using aromatherapy essential oils to promote sleep, reduce stress, calm nerves, or deal with the symptoms of anxiety.

Severe cases of depression or anxiety cannot be cured through the use of essential oils alone. However inhaling certain essential oils can help you reduce stress and relax body and mind.

Always contact your doctor before you decide to stop your medication and solely rely on aromatherapy to ease your symptoms and negative emotions. You can also refer to my previous article about stress and anxiety, as well as my article about depression for more natural options to treat these issues.

If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.

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