Creating A Calmer Mind And Body: The Use Of Essential Oils For Anxiety Relief

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety disorders are generally regarded as a common mental health concern that can affect millions of people globally. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may significantly impact a person's daily life. While medication and therapy can be prescribed to manage symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, many individuals are turning to natural remedies—such as essential oils—for relief.

By understanding the benefits of essential oils and therapy, individuals could take steps towards achieving a calmer mind and body and improving their overall well-being. Read on to learn more about essential oils, their roles and how they could possibly positively impact the lives of those living with anxiety disorder. 

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What are essential oils?

Essential oils are generally defined as concentrated liquids extracted from plants that contain condensed aromatic compounds. They can be used in various practices, including aromatherapy, massage and skincare. 

Essential oils can have therapeutic benefits when used correctly, such as reducing stress and nervousness in some, promoting relaxation and improving one’s sleep. 

These oils should generally be used cautiously, however, as some could be toxic if taken internally or otherwise inappropriately. It's generally best practice to follow proper dilution guidelines and seek professional advice when using essential oils.

How do essential oils work for anxiety disorder relief?

Essential oils are believed to affect the limbic system, which is thought by many to control emotions and memories. When the uplifting aroma of an essential oil is inhaled, the fragrance molecules are thought to travel to the limbic system—where they can have a calming effect on the mind and body through other neurological channels. 

In addition to their possible impact on the limbic system, essential oils are also thought by many to have physical benefits that could help reduce anxiety disorder-related symptoms. For example: Lavender oil has been suggested to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, while chamomile oil has been suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce muscle tension.

How to use essential oils for anxiety relief

There are many ways that individuals can use essential oils for relief of anxiety disorder-related symptoms: 

Aromatherapy therapy with oil

This form of aromatic therapy generally entails diffusing essential oils into the air. To begin, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a diffuser and let the fragrance fill the room. We do recommend following your practitioner’s guidance to ensure that the scent is not too overpowering. 

Topical application

Essential oils can be applied topically to the skin. However, prior to starting this form of therapy, patients might consider diluting the oils before use using a carrier oil—such as coconut or jojoba oil. This can reduce the risk of irritation later on. 

Massage

Massaging essential oils into the skin can help to improve one’s general level of circulation in the body, possibly reducing muscular tension. To begin, one can dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil according to practitioner or package instructions, applying it to the desired area of discomfort. This can be helpful if one’s anxiety disorder-related symptoms manifest in physical pain. You might apply essential oils one at a time to determine which oils work best for you. 

Inhalation

Inhaling the aroma of essential oils directly from the bottle can be effective for anxiety disorder symptom relief in some. To do this, hold the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply.

Exploring common essential oils for relief of anxiety disorder symptoms

Lavender 

Lavender oil is generally known as a popular essential oil for the relief of anxiety disorder symptoms. Its calming and relaxing aroma is believed to reduce symptoms of both anxiety disorder and depression. 

In addition to its soothing scent, lavender oil is thought by many to have a sedative effect, making it a possibly helpful choice for those who have trouble sleeping.

Bergamot

Bergamot oil can be extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange and has a fresh, citrusy scent that has been suggested to lift one’s mood and reduce anxiety levels. 

Bergamot oil has been noted to have been used in traditional medicine for centuries and is believed by many scholars to have a calming effect on the mind and body.

Chamomile

Chamomile oil can be derived from the chamomile plant and is thought by many to have a sweet, floral aroma that can reduce anxiety disorder-related symptoms and promote relaxation in many. 

Chamomile oil has also been suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be helpful for those experiencing muscular tension as a result of nervousness and stress.

Ylang-ylang

Ylang-ylang oil can be extracted from the flowers of the ylang-ylang tree and is thought by many to have a sweet, floral aroma that can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders and promote well-being. 

Ylang-ylang oil may also have a calming effect on the mind and body, which might aid many in finding relief from feelings of stress or overwhelm.

Frankincense

Frankincense oil can be extracted from the resin of the Boswellia tree and is believed by mant to have a warm, woody aroma, possibly reducing one’s symptoms of anxiety disorder and depression symptoms

The oil might also have a grounding effect on the mind and body that can help someone that is feeling scattered or overwhelmed.

Safety precautions

While essential oils are generally considered safe, it is regarded by many to be best practice to use them cautiously— following proper dilution and consumption guidelines. Some essential oils can be toxic if taken internally, and others could cause skin irritation if applied undiluted. 

It can also be helpful to remember that essential oils should not generally replace medical treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder, it might be best to seek professional help and follow the advice of your healthcare provider.

Benefits of online therapy

Online Therapy is a valuable tool for managing anxiety symptoms and can complement essential oils. While essential oils may help to soothe the mind and body, therapy provides a space to delve deeper into the root causes of anxiety and develop coping mechanisms to manage symptoms. Through therapy, individuals can work with a professional to understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and create a personalized plan for managing anxiety. By combining essential oils with therapy, individuals can experience a multi-faceted approach to managing stress and achieve a greater sense of calm and well-being.

Effectiveness of online therapy

This study, called using therapeutic essential oils to support the management of anxiety, highlights the potential benefits of combining essential therapeutic oils with online therapy to reduce overall patient anxiety and stress. When appropriately used in a clinical setting, essential oils may positively impact health and wellness. Online therapy can also provide individuals with the support and guidance they need to manage anxiety symptoms. Combining online therapy with essential oils may be an effective way to address the underlying causes of anxiety while providing additional potential benefits such as improved sleep, lessened stress levels, and better overall well-being.

Nature has provided us with the tools to heal our bodies and minds; essential oils are a testament to that.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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Takeaway

Essential oils could be a helpful tool for many, possibly supporting the management of anxiety disorder-related symptoms and promoting a sense of calm and well-being. However, it’s generally best to use essential oils cautiously and seek professional help and oversight as you do. BetterHelp can be complementary throughout this process, possibly providing individuals with a safe space to address the root causes of their experience with anxiety disorder as they develop coping skills. Online therapy can connect you with a therapist in your area of need. Take the first step toward overall better quality of life and stress levels that are more manageable and contact BetterHelp today.
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