Essential Oils For Anxiety And Panic Attacks

Updated September 30, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses in the US, affecting 40 million adults. This means there are lots of people that are struggling with the same thing that you are. If you are living with an anxiety disorder, the good news is that they are very treatable. There are many traditional and alternative forms of treatment, including essential oils for anxiety and panic attacks.

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Why Do Essential Oils Work for Anxiety?

Essential oils have been found helpful in reducing anxiety and boosting mood because the scent molecules can impact the areas in the brain that affect emotions. It has been found that emotions are directly connected with those areas of the brain. For example, when people lose their sense of smell, they often begin to develop depression as well. And, some people that are depressed begin to have an impaired sense of smell.

Many essential oils are beneficial because our brains can connect scent with memory. So, if you use a certain essential oil in a diffuser as you practice meditation, or while you do something else that you enjoy, your brain will remember that. Then, when you take in that same smell when you're starting to experience anxiety or a panic attack, the scent can help place you back into the right frame of mind, just like when you used it in the past.

Many studies have been done around the world linking health benefits, both physical and mental, to the use of common essential oils.

How to Use Essential Oils?

Before getting into the exact ways that you can use essential oils, it's important to mention that there are wrong ways to use essential oils. Not all oils are used in the same way. And, it's important that before you use anything, you understand what the directions are for using it.

You may find some information online that will encourage you to use an essential oil by ingesting or placing it on your skin without diluting it first. However, healthcare professionals are trained to always dilute oils before using them. You can dilute essential oils with other oils such as vegetable oil, coconut oil, or similar products. These are called carrier oils. Always make sure you understand what the dilution rate is before using it.

There are several different ways that you can use essential oils for your mental health treatment.

Inhale it

Inhaling an essential oil is one of the best ways to experience its benefits. You can place an essential oil, mixed with water, into a diffuser. The diffuser will then spread the essential oil into the air as the water and oil evaporate. When using an essential oil in a diffuser, you want to make sure that you pay attention to how strong the potency is. You may be able to handle running your diffuser for hours with some oils, but need much less time with others.

If you don't have a diffuser and would like to take advantage of the benefits of essential oil inhalation, you can also add a few drops to a bowl of steaming water. The oil will quickly begin to evaporate so you will want to keep your head held over the bowl. To get the best benefit, you can put a towel over your head to help trap the stream in with you. When doing this, you want to keep your eyes shut and not use a lot of oil, as you will be very close to it.

Dry Evaporation

This is when you apply the essential oil to a cotton ball or similar product and allow it to sit in a bowl or dish in your room. This allows the essential oils to evaporate from the cotton ball naturally.

Put It on Your Skin

When certain essential oils are mixed with carrier oils, they can be placed directly on your skin, similar to a lotion.

Spray It

If you want the scent of the essential oil without actually diffusing it into the room, you can also spray it in the air. All you need is a spray bottle and water to mix the oils in. Then you can spray it around the room, your office, or even your car.

How to Use Essential Oils During an Anxiety Attack?

If you are interested in using essential oils during an actual anxiety attack or panic attack, you will need to be a little more proactive about being ready for it. While you may know that your anxiety is rising and that you're starting to have an anxiety attack, panic attacks may hit you out of nowhere. That means that there doesn't have to be something that's going on in your life that builds up your anxiety to the point of having a panic attack. You may think things are going fine and then have one out of nowhere.

If you experience panic or anxiety attacks, you want to find a way to keep the essential oils with you in a way that you can use wherever you are. For example, it can be helpful to keep a diffuser on your desk at work. Or, if you're going to be traveling, you could keep some cotton balls with oil in a container that you can keep with you. If you can feel your anxiety starting to rise, you can simply open up the container so you can benefit from the aromatherapy.

This could be inside of your purse, or in your office. This would allow you to rub a little bit of the lotion on when you are starting to feel anxious.

What Are the Best Oils for Anxiety and Panic Attacks?

Now that you know a little bit about how to use essential oils, let's get into the best essential oils for anxiety and panic attacks.

Citrus Oils

Overall, citrus fruit oils are very popular for use against anxiety and depression. It has been found that the scent molecules of citrus are small enough that they're able to penetrate through the brain blood barrier. This is also why you are so easily able to smell citrus from across the room. The molecules are so small that they travel through the air.

Some of the most popular citrus oils used to improve mood and reduce anxiety include:

  • Bergamot
  • Lemon
  • Wild orange
  • Lime
  • Sweet Marjoram

Other Types of Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is very popular for relieving anxiety, having a calming impression, and helping people to fall asleep. A common way to use lavender oil that was not discussed already is to put a few drops of it into your bath water. If you're struggling with anxiety, you can mix the lavender oil into the warm water to help release tension from your muscles and calm your mind.

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Jasmine is an essential oil that works a lot like lavender. However, it's believed that jasmine has a calming effect without also causing drowsiness. That means if you have a busy day, you may want to choose jasmine over lavender.

Tea tree oil and rose oil are other essential oils that have been found to decrease stress and elevate mood. In addition to helping with stress relief, rose oil has been proven to positively impact sexual dysfunction and depression; and tea tree oil has been found to have antimicrobial effects.

There was a study conducted in 2006 that showed the essential oil ylang ylang, when mixed with bergamot and lavender, was effective at lowering the heart rate, serum cortisol—the stress hormone—and blood pressure. It was also shown to relieve stress and reduce anxiety levels.

A Word of Warning

Not all essential oils are safe for all people. Many people think that there is no danger to using essential oils. However, that's not true. Using certain essential oils on your skin before going into the sunlight can cause your skin to have extra sensitivity. This means that if you aren't careful, you will get a bad burn.

There are also certain types of essential oils that can trigger people's asthma and cause an allergic reaction. And, certain oils will hurt you if you ingest them. You can't make assumptions when it comes to using essential oils.

Before using them, you should talk to your physician, especially if you're pregnant.

Traditional Forms of Treatment

While essential oils can be a very effective alternative form of treatment, it may not be all that you need to address your anxiety, panic, or depression struggles. If you find that your anxiety and depression are affecting you daily, you should seek traditional forms of treatment as well.

There may be a medication that can help you gain faster control over your anxiety. Or, it may be that talking to a therapist would help you learn how to control your anxiety and emotions. If you're using traditional forms of treatment, it doesn't mean that you can't also use essential oils. There are many different types of treatment plans that involve using several forms of treatment. It's important that you find what works the best for you.

Online Therapy

Research shows that online counseling services can provide people living with anxiety the tools they need to manage everyday stress. For example, a study published by Oxford University found that internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy was an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Online cognitive-behavioral therapy helps those living with anxiety and panic disorders to reframe intrusive thoughts that can often cause stress. 

As discussed above, internet-based therapy is an effective alternative to in-person treatment when addressing anxiety, particularly in combination with natural remedies such as aromatherapy. With online counseling through BetterHelp, you’ll have the opportunity to work with licensed professionals from all around (and even outside) the US. This means you’ll have a better chance of being matched with someone who knows how to guide you through the best possible treatment plan based on your mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. Qualified mental health professionals can provide you with the resources to manage and eliminate stress in your everyday life, and in the long run, and improve your overall mental well-being. Below, check out reviews of counselors, from those who have experienced similar issues. 

Counselor Reviews

“Dr. Collins is a great listener and has given me actionable strategies for managing my anxiety. These are tools that I didn’t know about before talking to her, so I’m very grateful for her insights.”

“Lauren has helped me out with my anxiety and stress around relationship issues. She’s super easy to talk to and I enjoyed that she really keeps the conversation going with great feedback.” 


Coping with anxiety often means taking a multi-pronged approach. Using natural techniques like aromatherapy can be effective, particularly when they’re paired with professional help. Manage your anxiety by reaching out today.

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