Benefits of Essential Oils for Anxiety
By Julia Thomas
Updated June 14, 2019
Work, relationships, and everyday life can be extremely stressful. If the stress is too great or you don't know how to manage it well, it can lead to anxiety. Anxiety is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people every year. It's fortunate that there are many different ways to treat anxiety. One is by using natural essential oils. Here are some facts about what they are, how to use them, and how they can help.
Symptoms Of Anxiety
Before delving into the subject of essential oils for anxiety, it's a good idea to start by knowing how to recognize anxiety. The following are some of the most common symptoms:
- Worrying excessively
- Trouble concentrating
- Overwhelming, irrational fears
- Muscle tension
- Insomnia, trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep
- Avoiding social interactions
- Panic attacks
Nearly everyone has some degree of anxiety at some time in their life. It may come and go very quickly in extremely stressful situations or just in the course of everyday life. If the anxiety is mild or fleeting, you may be able to manage it on your own. Using essential oils is one way to do that. However, when the symptoms won't go away or keep coming back, you may have a serious mental health problem that requires medication and/or therapy. Even then, essential oils may be a beneficial addition to your treatment regimen.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are oils that come from plants or other natural sources. They're made by distilling and concentrating the source material - be it herb, flower, or something else. When the essential oil is extracted, it retains the fragrance and flavor of the original plant. This fragrant essence of the plant is what may help with anxiety or other conditions.
Ways To Use Essential Oils
Using oils for anxiety isn't extremely hard. There are four basic methods that can be used: inhaling them, rubbing them into the skin, diffusing them, or taking them internally. To make it simpler, here are the ways people most often use them.
You can inhale an essential oil in several convenient ways. You can put a bit on a handkerchief, on your wrists, on the palms of your hands, or on cotton pad. Then simply hold it next to your face and breathe in deeply and slowly several times.
Use a room diffuser specifically designed for aromatherapy to spread the oil's fragrance throughout your room. You can get a very simple essential oil diffuser or an elaborate, decorative model that enhances your room décor. The style is just a matter of personal preference. It's the design type that might make a difference. Design types include:
- Fan style diffusers
- Electric heat diffusers
- Candle diffusers
- Terracotta diffusers
- Lamp ring diffusers
- Ultrasonic diffusers
- Atomizing diffusers, also called nebulizers
You can also diffuse essential oils using ordinary household items. You can place a few drops on a tissue and leave it on your bedside table. Steam the essential oil in a bowl of hot water, or place a drop in the melted wax after you blow out an ordinary beeswax candle.
After your bathtub is filled, add up to 10 drops of the essential oil; anxiety will diminish soon as you soak in the water. You can also dilute the essential oil in carrier oil like almond oil or coconut oil before adding it to your bath. This is especially helpful if you have sensitive skin.
Using essential oils topically, also called dermal application, simply means rubbing it onto your skin. Massaging essential oils into your skin adds an extra element of relaxation. Use carrier oil like jojoba or rosehip oil and add 10 to 12 drops of essential oil. Then massage it on your skin or have a massage therapist use it on your skin as they give you a massage. You can also make a moisturizing lotion by mixing unscented lotion and a few drops of essential oil. Rub it on your skin as you would any moisturizing lotion.
There's been a lot of debate over whether or not essential oils should be taken internally. People swallow other oils, like fish oil, for anxiety and never worry about their safety. However, not a lot of research has been done to find out if ingesting essential oils is safe. No research has proven that it's unsafe, but that isn't necessarily enough to make most people feel comfortable with taking them in orally.
If you do use essential oils internally, you might take them in several ways. You can add a drop or two to a glass of water or mix them into food, for example. Just remember that you need very little if you're taking it internally. One drop should be enough to have an effect.
Precautions When Using Oils For Anxiety
Essential oils are mostly relatively safe. However, there are a few things you need to remember. First, if you're pregnant, nursing, or exposing an infant or child to the essential oil, start by talking to your physician or your child's pediatrician.
Second, if you're applying an essential oil to your skin, test the oil on a small section of skin before you spread it on larger areas. This helps you avoid allergic reactions and side effects. Another way to minimize the risk is to dilute the oils with carrier oil or in water. And, of course, always use the oils in the recommended way.
Finally, be aware that certain essential oils, like bergamot, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it's important to avoid strong, direct sunlight when you're using them.
What Essential Oils Are Good For Anxiety?
The list of essential oils that can help with anxiety is a long one. Here are some of the best essential oils for anxiety.
Perhaps the most popular essential oil, lavender has a pleasing floral fragrance. Many people feel that this is the best essential oil for anxiety. It also promotes sleep. One way to use lavender is to apply it topically. Rub it directly onto your skin, and the anxiety may reduce within minutes. Knowing where to put lavender oil is easy. Just rub it on your hands and breathe it in.
Bergamot oranges are the source for bergamot essential oil. Their citrus scent has been shown to help relieve anxiety. Use the cotton pad or handkerchief method and inhale this oil slowly.
Chamomile is a popular herbal remedy that's often used as a tea for its relaxing qualities. It's also made into essential oil that you can mix with carrier oil and rub on your skin or add to your bath.
Rose petals are used to make rose essential oil. This floral fragrance is very relaxing. In fact, pregnant women have used it in a footbath to reduce anxiety during labor. Just fill up a small basin with water and add rose essential oil that's been mixed with a carrier. Or make a moisturizing lotion to rub into your skin.
The smell of fresh oranges is nearly always pleasing. Orange essential oil captures that fragrance and concentrates it. Used in a diffuser or inhaled from the bottle, orange essential oil can lighten your mood and relieve anxiety.
Sandalwood is a type of aromatic wood that's often used for aromatherapy. Sandalwood is also made into essential oils for stress and anxiety. It promotes a feeling of peacefulness and harmony. You can use it on your skin, in a diffuser, or by inhaling it.
An ylang ylang is a tree that grows in Malaysia and the Philippines. Its yellow flowers are used to make an essential oil that helps with anxiety and other conditions. It's a good oil to use if you're under a lot of stress. Use it topically or diffuse it into your room.
Another of the essential oils for stress and anxiety is made from the herb called clary sage. This oil impacts the dopamine system in the brain and creates a sense of calm. Some say it even boosts your self-confidence. Inhale it from your wrists or the bottle, diffuse it, or add it to your bath for best results.
For anxiety, essential oils from the jasmine flower might work as well as some prescription drugs. Jasmine essential oil not only helps with anxiety itself, but it can also help with insomnia. Once you're sleeping better, the anxiety may ease up even more. Inhale it from a handkerchief or rub it on your ankles for quick stress relief.
Frankincense essential oil is known to relieve anxiety as well as pain. It comes from the Boswellia tree native to Somalia. It can be diffused or added to a bath to promote calm and a sense of wellbeing.
Valerian is another plant that has been widely used as an herbal remedy. It's a mild sedative that can help with sleep as well as anxiety. It's great to use valerian in a diffuser before bedtime to help you drift off to sleep easily.
Jatamnsi is also in the same family as valerian. As an essential oil, it not only helps with anxiety and sleep, but it also may help relieve depression. One way to use it is to massage it into your forehead or temples.
Holy basil is an herb with a minty fragrance. Helpful for both emotional and physical stress, holy basil works well when you put it into a diffuser and inhale it as it spreads through the room.
Sweet basil is from the same family as holy basil. Sweet basil is the one people often use in cooking. While it relieves anxiety very well, it isn't as sedating as many anxiety medications. Inhale sweet basil or use it in an aromatherapy diffuser.
A grassy plant from India is the source of vetiver essential oil. This oil promotes relaxation and relieves anxiety. Use it as massage oil or in a diffuser.
Patchouli has been used for a very long time in ayurvedic medicine to relieve anxiety and stress. Most users find it very calming and relaxing when inhaled or diffused.
Lemon balm is often used in capsule form as an aid for people with anxiety disorders. When made into an essential oil, it can be inhaled from a cotton ball or used in a diffuser for the greatest effect.
You might know marjoram by its other name: oregano. Many aromatherapists use this essential oil for anxiety relief. Blend it with carrier oil and apply it to your temples or wrists. Or, put it in a diffuser and enjoy its fragrant smell.
What About an Essential Oil Blend for Anxiety?
While each type of oil may be beneficial on its own, many people find even greater relief with essential oil blends for anxiety. Combining two or more oils can create a synergistic effect that is more helpful than one type of oil. Here are some of the most popular blends:
- Lavender, lemon, and clary sage essential oils
- Lavender and orange essential oils
- Sandalwood and rose essential oils
- Ylang ylang, clary sage, and lavender essential oils
- Ylang ylang, jasmine, and grapefruit essential oils
- Jasmine, frankincense, and lemon essential oils
Summing Up the Benefits of Essential Oil for Anxiety
While essential oils aren't a cure-all for anxiety or any other medical or mental health condition, they can offer some help. Here's a brief summary of their benefits.
- They're relatively safe.
- They're easy to use.
- They're often less expensive than other treatments.
- They can help relieve symptoms of anxiety for some people.
- They can be used alone or along with other kinds of anxiety treatments.
Are Essential Oils All You Need?
When you're using essential oils, anxiety may diminish to a certain degree. If you only have mild occasional anxiety, essential oils may provide all the help you need. However, if your anxiety is moderate to severe or long-lasting, getting help from a doctor or counselor is a better option. You may need medications, at least at the beginning. And with or without medications, you may need therapy to learn how to manage your stress and anxiety more effectively. You can talk to a mental health counselor at BetterHelp for online therapy whenever and wherever works best for you.
You may find relief from your anxiety by using essential oils. Whether you do or don't, you can build the skills and resilience to cope with all the stressful situations in your life through the therapeutic process. Then, you can experience the calm and peaceful life you're hoping for now.