Benefits of Essential Oils for Anxiety

By Julia Thomas

Updated August 23, 2019

Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

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. Some choose to address it by using natural essential oils.

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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
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Overwhelming, irrational fears
  • Fatigue
  • 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. Some people use essential oils to do this. However, when the symptoms won't go away or keep coming back, you may have a problem that requires medication and/or therapy. Even then, you may choose to add essential oils to your treatment.

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 some believe 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.

Inhale

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.

Diffuse

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.

Bath

After your bathtub is filled, add some of the essential oil (check the label for directions). You can also dilute the essential oil in carrier oil like almond oil or coconut oil before adding it to your bath. This may be helpful if you have sensitive skin.

Topically

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 some essential oil (check the label for directions). 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.

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Internally

There's been a lot of debate over whether or not essential oils should be taken internally. There is a lack of research that has demonstrated the safety of ingesting essential oils. There isn't research that demonstrates that it is unsafe, but most people don't feel comfortable taking them orally.

Precautions When Using Oils for Anxiety

Essential oils are considered safe for most people. 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. Using essential oil around pets may result in pets having reactions to the oils.

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 way the manufacturer's label recommends.

It's possible to have allergic reactions and even side effects from using essential oils. If you're taking medication or have existing medical conditions, it's important to talk to your doctor about using essential oils.

What Essential Oils Are Good for Anxiety?

The list of essential oils that some believe help with anxiety is below. Remember, to talk with your medical professional before choosing an oil or using essential oils.

Lavender

Perhaps the most popular essential oil, lavender has a pleasing floral fragrance. It is thought to help with anxiety and to promote sleep.

Bergamot

Bergamot oranges are the source for bergamot essential oil. Their citrus scent may help relieve anxiety.

Chamomile

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

Rose petals are used to make rose essential oil. This floral fragrance is said to be very relaxing.

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Orange

The smell of fresh oranges is nearly always pleasing. Orange essential oil captures that fragrance and concentrates it.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood is a type of aromatic wood that's often used for aromatherapy. Sandalwood is also made into essential oils thought to help with stress and anxiety.

YlangYlang

An ylangylang is a tree that grows in Malaysia and the Philippines. Its yellow flowers are used to make an essential oil that is believed to help with anxiety and other conditions.

Clary Sage

Another of the essential oils people use for stress and anxiety is made from the herb called clary sage. This oil is believed to impact the dopamine system in the brain and create a sense of calm.

Jasmine

For anxiety, essential oils from the jasmine flower are thought to be helpful.

Frankincense

Frankincense essential oil is thought to relieve anxiety as well as pain. It comes from the Boswellia tree native to Somalia.

Jatamansi

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.

Holy Basil

Holy basil is an herb with a minty fragrance. Many tout it's properties as being helpful with physical pain and anxiety.

Sweet Basil

Sweet basil is from the same family as holy basil. Sweet basil is the one people often use in cooking. It is thought to help with anxiety.

Vetiver

A grassy plant from India is the source of vetiver essential oil. This oil may promote.

Patchouli

Patchouli has been used for a very long time in ayurvedic medicine to relieve anxiety and stress. Users find it very calming and relaxing when inhaled or diffused.

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Marjoram

You might know marjoram by its other name: oregano. Many aromatherapists use this essential oil for anxiety relief.

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. 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
  • Ylangylang, clary sage, and lavender essential oils
  • Ylangylang, 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 might offer some help. Here's a brief summary of their benefits.

  • They're relatively safe.
  • They're easy to use.
  • They're can sometimes be less expensive than other treatments.
  • They can help relieve symptoms of anxiety for some people.

Are Essential Oils All You Need?

You may experience some benefit from using essential oils. It's important to talk to your doctor or other trusted medical provider before beginning their use, especially if you have any medical conditions, allergies, or are pregnant or nursing. Traditional medications can also provide some relief for anxiety as can certain types of counseling (therapy). You can talk to a mental health counselor at BetterHelpfor online therapy whenever and wherever works best for you.

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