A relaxing hot soak after a tiring day, with aromatic steam soothing your senses, as you take a deep—much needed—breath. Ahh, just imagining it makes us feel a little better!
If you’re here, you’re likely already a fan of essential oils, or just curious about them. Or maybe, you think, a bunch of oils can cure anxiety? Totally, not believing that.
Well, the good news is, this mini-guide of sorts has something for all of you! And, if you’re in the latter category, by the end, you’re highly likely to change your mind. ;))
In this feature we’re going into detail about the best essential oils for anxiety and stress relief, how they help, and best practices for usage.
So, buckle up and sip on a drink while you soak in all the info.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are concentrated extracts derived from plants, herbs, and trees. They can be obtained from any part of the plant or tree—flowers, stems, leaves, bark, roots, or fruit. They contain aromatic compounds like terpenes and flavonoids which impart their effects.
Essential oils have a stronger scent and more active ingredients compared to the tree or plant they are extracted from. This is because a huge amount of plant matter is used while extracting these oils.
Essential oils are extracted in three (most popular) ways:
- Steam Distillation – Steam is directed through the plant material and condensed to produce two products, i.e. essential oils and a hydrosol containing water-soluble molecules.
A popular example of a hydrosol is rose water. Rose petals are distilled as much for their hydrosol as they are for the essential oil.
- Expression – This is the process used to extract oils from citrus fruits. The peels of the fruits are peeled or grated to release the oils. Lemon essential oil and orange essential oil are extracted through this method.
- Supercritical CO2 Extraction – While this process is not really super critical, it is a bit more complex than the other two.
Using CO2 as a solvent, the extract produced is close to the original form of the raw material. Oils extracted through this method have most of the chemical molecules of the original plant intact.
These oils also have different therapeutic uses and safety factors to consider compared to distilled essential oils.
The more pure the extracted oil, the more potent it is.
Sometimes, the manufacturers blend carrier oils like coconut oil or olive oil with essential oils. These products are no longer pure essential oils but mixtures.
Here are two interesting facts about essential oils:
- Although essential oils are called ‘oils’ they do not feel oily. They are named so because they contain oil-soluble chemical compounds from plants. These compounds give the oils their therapeutic properties.
- Plants themselves use essential oils. The naturally occurring oils in plants help them control infections and hormonal effects, heal wounds, and attract or repel insects and animals.
Some of the most popular and used essential oils include Lavender, Chamomile, Peppermint, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, Tea Tree, Rose, Eucalyptus, Orange, and Lemon. Several of these help to soothe anxiety and stress. We’ll get to it in detail, soon.
What Are Essential Oils Used For?
What exactly are these extracted plant compounds used for? Is there any function to them apart from their scent? And in what ways does the scent affect our health?
Essential oils have had a variety of uses and purposes since ancient times. Their anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, stimulating, and detoxifying properties have made them popular in natural and alternative medicine systems as a cost-effective therapy for various health concerns.
Some ways and products through which we use essentials oils today are:
- Cosmetics and skincare
- Air and room fresheners
- Bath and hair products
- Massage oils
- Diffuser blends
- Herbal/ayurvedic medicine, etc.
You can understand the uses of essential oils from the benefits they offer. Here are some of them:
Improves Brain Function
Essential oils contain neuroprotective effects and memory-boosting abilities that can enhance the cognitive performance of the brain.
Studies have shown that inhaling essential oils like peppermint, lemon, rosemary, etc, increases the blood flow in the brain, improves memory, and enhances concentration over extended periods of time.
Inflammation happens when your body releases blood cells to heal ‘wounds’ sensed by the brain. It can happen due to an infection, or even a food allergy.
However, your brain cannot distinguish between whether there’s really something wrong, or if you’re merely stressed from work. Over time, the inflammation produced by the brain tires your immune system and causes other body problems.
Studies show that essential oils like thyme, fennel, rose, ginger, patchouli, etc, have anti-inflammatory properties. By inhaling the diffused oils (if it’s stress related) or rubbing a carrier oil mixture directly onto the affected area can help relieve inflammation.
It’s Antimicrobial and Antibiotic
Some essential oils naturally possess antimicrobial and antibacterial compounds like aldehydes and phenols that help fight off pathogens in the body. These compounds can sterilize and kill fungi, viruses and bacteria that cause various diseases.
Essential oils like tea tree oil, lemongrass oil, and eucalyptus oil, have antibacterial effects against pathogens that cause diseases like skin infections, pneumonia, stomach viruses, certain infectious diseases, etc.
Relieves Migraines and Headaches
Essential oils are known to relieve migraines and headaches because they effectively heal the root of the problem instead of masking it as pain-killing tablets do. They can either be inhaled directly or massaged into the forehead as a diluted mixture.
Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary, soothe the nerves, stimulate blood flow, relieve sinus and inflammation, and calm the senses. Thus, positively affecting headaches and migraines.
Alleviates Aches and Pains
Apart from headaches, essentials also have a soothing effect on bodily pains and aches like period cramps in women, neck pains, neuropathic pains, etc.
Essential oils like black pepper, peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, ginger, etc, when rubbed directly onto the area of pain with a lotion or oil, significantly reduce the aches.
This is thanks to their healing and anti-inflammatory properties.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to heal the mind and body. It’s an alternative and complementary form of therapy when done professionally and with proper precautions.
Aromatherapists suggest various methods to use essential oils for physical and psychological healing. Essential oils can be applied topically, massaged into the body, inhaled, and used through water immersion, to achieve the desired effects.
When inhaled, essential oil molecules are carried by the olfactory nerves directly to the emotional center of the brain, called the amygdala. This brings about a soothing sensation that relaxes the mind and calms the nerves.
History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has been used around the world for ages, even though it was probably not called that in earlier times. In ancient India, Egypt, China, etc, aromatic plant extracts were used in balms and oils for achieving both physical and psychological benefits.
Essential oils were officially recognized to be able to treat illnesses by German and French physicians in the 19th century.
And the term ‘aromatherapy’ was coined by the French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé around the same period. He explored the use of essential oils in treating medical conditions. He talks about it in detail in a book he wrote on the topic.
By the 1950s, many medical practitioners, beauticians, and therapists were using aromatherapy to treat customers. It also became popular in the U.S. by 1980.
Today, beauty products, candles, etc, are sold as aromatherapy products, and a comprehensive and wide range of services are available all over the world.
Is Aromatherapy Good for Anxiety? What Are the Benefits of Aromatherapy?
Healing anxiety and stress is one of the primary functions of aromatherapy.
This mainly happens due to our sensory receptors. As mentioned above, the calming molecules of essential oils are directly inhaled into the center of the brain where emotions and memories are stored (amygdala and hippocampus).
This is the primary reason why aromatherapy is used to cure stress and depression in patients.
There are many ways essential oils are used to perform therapy. Apart from the healing ability of the oils, the process itself is relaxing. During aromatherapy, the skin and olfactory nerves absorb the oils through:
- Body oils and lotions (massage)
- Facial steamers
- Bathing salts
- Face masks and packs
- Aromatic spritzers
- Hot and cold compresses
These can be performed alone or in combination.
Apart from healing anxiety, aromatherapy has other helpful effects like:
- Improves skin health
- Cures insomnia
- Boosts energy
- Improves digestion
- Improves hair health
- Can ease nausea and pain symptoms, etc.
Best Essential Oils for Anxiety and Stress Relief
Jatamansi, also known as the Spikenard plant, is an Ayurvedic herb. It’s been used since ancient times for its healing properties. The essential oil comes from the root of the plant and has an earthy, musky scent. Not everyone is a fan of the fragrance, but the oil has its benefits.
Jatamansi has antioxidants that prevent cell damage and improve brain function. It also has a sedative-like effect that calms the mind and promotes sleep. The best way to use it is by mixing a drop or two in carrier oil and massing it into your temples for a restful night of sleep.
This Jatamansi essential oil by R V Essentials is 100% pure, without pesticides or harsh chemicals. Get it below.
Lavender is one of the most popular and versatile plants in the world. The essential oil is derived from the flowering tops of the plant and is renowned for its sweet scent with a herbal undertone. Lavender extract is found in a wide range of personal care products.
Lavender is one of the best aromatherapy oils for anxiety and insomnia. Its scent has calming properties that soothe anxious nerves and promote a sedative-like effect for sleep. You can use it as a bath oil, or inhale it through steam for a relaxing, rejuvenating experience.
This Lavender oil by Plant therapy is a 100% pure essential oil and of therapeutic grade. Get it from the link below.
Ylang Ylang essential oil is made from the yellow flowers on the Cananga tree native to the Philippines and Australia. It has a sweet, floral scent that’s quite heady in its pure form. It’s one of the popular essential oils used in personal care products.
Ylang Ylang is known to have antidepressant properties that boost mood, reduce depression and blood pressure, and stimulate relaxation. You can massage it into your temples by mixing it with a carrier oil or put it in a room diffuser for a relaxing, calming effect.
This 100% pure Ylang Ylang oil from Healing Solutions is one of the best essential oils for depression and anxiety. Try it below.
Vetiver essential oil comes from the Vetiver grass that’s native to India. The plant has sharp-edged leaves, tiny flowers, and fragrant roots. Vetiver has a sweet, earthy scent that’s utterly pleasing to the senses in the most non-invasive way.
Vetiver helps calm the nervous system, and promotes concentration and deep relaxation. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. You can enjoy a vetiver oil massage, diffuse it, or try palm inhalation for a soothing experience.
This Vetiver essential oil from Edens Garden is 100% pure, without any synthetics or chemicals, and batch-tested to ensure the highest quality. Try it below.
Rose essential oil is a well-liked beauty product, used in a multitude of personal care products. It has been used since ancient times for its sweet fragrance and the healing effect it has. Rose water extracted from the petals is also equally popular for its soothing benefits.
The fragrance of the rose essential oil instantly soothes the nerves and it has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve physical aches.
To relax, put a drop two of rose oil into a non-scented lotion and lather it onto your body. Or you can soak your feet in a basin of warm water with a few drops of the oil. Ahhh, we can already feel the relaxing effects!
This Rose essential oil from Rainbow Abby is extracted from Bulgarian Damask Roses with no additives or synthetics added. It’s an undiluted pure essential oil. For your next relaxing soak in the tub, get this sweet, healing oil below.
Eucalyptus has been a well-known household name for cold remedies and cleaning products since old times. The essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree, and its strong fragrance relieves colds and has disinfecting powers.
Eucalyptus can help with the stress if headaches and migraines are a common occurrence for you. Inhaling the steam from a drop or two added to a basin of hot water can soothe your nerves and clear congestion and the sinus. You can also use it in a carrier oil to massage away muscle cramps.
This Eucalyptus essential oil from Plant Therapy is 100% pure without any additives and synthetics. Get it today to soothe your nerves in a few deep inhales.
Produced from the pretty white flowers of the chamomile plant, the chamomile essential oil is equally popular as rose and lavender. You might have heard of (or even tried it) chamomile tea for curing insomnia and inducing restful sleep. Well, the oil itself has similar properties.
It is known to soothe anxiety, promote relaxing effects, and can also help heal digestive problems. Pop a few drops in the diffuser and inhale deeply for a few minutes, or add in a tub for a relaxing soak.
This Chamomile essential oil from Rocky Mountain Oils is made of Roman Chamomiles from the UK and is 100% undiluted, and free of additives. Get it below for bedtime stress relief.
The Lemongrass essential oil is extracted from the stalks of the big, grass-like plant of the same name. It has a citrus flavor and a fruity, lemony aroma. It’s a common ingredient in healing teas and even in some Asian food recipes.
Lemongrass has a strong scent and whether it helps soothe anxiety and stress is subjective to the user. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can also be used in massage oils to soothe pains, and the fresh lemony scent makes it a good choice for home diffusers.
The Lemongrass essential oil from Plant Therapy is pure and free of chemicals and additives. Get it from the link below.
Some other noteworthy oils that help you relieve anxiety and stress are, Lemon and Orange, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Patchouli, Frankincense, and Grapefruit.
Calming Essential Oil Blends You Can Try
These 6 blends offer something for every occasion, whether it is a peaceful night of sleep you’re looking for or a relaxing deep breathing session.
Peace and Calm Blend
How it helps: This simple blend relaxes your anxious mind, puts a full stop to overthinking, and soothes stressed nerves.
What you need: 2 drops of Lavender, 1 drop of Ylang Ylang
Best used as: Try a simple palm inhalation, or add in the diffuser and practice a breathing technique you like. You can even add it to your tub if a relaxing soak is more of your thing.
Mood Booster Blend
How it helps: This is an energy-boosting blend that clams racing thoughts and promotes happy feelings. Citrus refreshes you and Bergamot help you relax.
What you need: 3 drops of Grapefruit, 2 drops of Orange, 1 drop of Bergamot, 1 drop of Lemon
Best used as: Add in the diffuser and take a few deep breaths, letting the scent reach your brain. Rub a teeny amount on your wrists and inhale for a quick mood lift while you’re out and about.
Clear Focus Blend
How it helps: This is a super calming blend that promotes tranquility and focus. Use it when you’re trying to get some work done and want to center your mind.
What you need: 4 drops of Rose, 3 drops of Roman Chamomile, 2 drops of Tangerine
Best used as: Add this blend to the diffuser and meditate for a few minutes. You can diffuse this blend near your work desk for a few hours of clear and calm focus. It also works as a quick palm inhalation practice.
Restful Sleep Blend
How it helps: A soothing blend that calms your nerves, cures insomnia and helps you achieve a night of deep sleep.
What you need: 2 drops of Clary Sage, 2 drops of Lavender, 1 drop of Bergamot
Best used as: Diffuse the blend at night, ideally an hour or 30 minutes before you doze off. Practice a calming breathing technique or some yin yoga to achieve the best results.
Headache Relief Blend
How it helps: This healing blend soothes tensed nerves in the brain, clears nasal passages, and frees the mind from icky, repetitive thoughts.
What you need: 1 drop of Eucalyptus, 1 drop of Frankincense, 2 drops of Lavender
Best used as: Diffuse the blend near your bed and try to take a restful nap. Practicing a relaxing breathing technique helps too. You can also dilute it with a carrier oil and massage it a little into your temples.
Instant Relaxation Blend
How it helps: A quick fix for when you need to bust stress and enter peace in a few minutes. If you’re short of time, this is the best blend to try on the list.
What you need: 2 drops of Vetiver, 2 drops of Patchouli, 1 drop of Wild Orange
Best used as: A diffuser blend. Use your favorite breathing technique while you’re at it. Rubbing a few drops on your wrists and inhaling it works well too if you’re in a hurry.
Important Factors To Note While Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are healing extractions that can greatly benefit your health. However, to get the best out of them, there are certain safety precautions you must follow. These best practices listed below ensure you have a safe, positive experience using essential oils.
Use Only the Safest Essential Oils
When choosing essential oils for aromatherapy or other home remedies, it is imperative to ensure you only use 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils.
Any kind of perfume oil or fragrance oil is not pure essential oil. They are not meant for aromatherapy.
Also, ensure that the brand you choose is authentic. Details like locations where the oils are sourced from, the tests performed to guarantee their purity and safety, and the ethical practices of the brand must be taken into account.
All the brands mentioned in this list offer 100% pure therapeutic grade oils, undiluted and free of chemicals. You can head over to the respective brand’s website for detailed information.
Never Ingest Essential Oils
Never ever consume essential oils orally.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated concoctions and are too potent to consume directly. Yes, they are super beneficial and have quite a few health benefits. But it can all go down the drain if you do not use them appropriately.
While some products containing essential oils present themselves as ingestible, it’s best to remain cautious. There are too many safety factors to consider.
Do Not Apply To Skin Without Dilution
As we already mentioned, essential oils are strong extracts that are super potent. Consuming them directly is advised against and so is directly applying them to the skin.
Some oils like Rose and Sandalwood can be applied undiluted. However, it’s always better to avoid doing so.
Most essential oils can cause issues like burning sensations, rashes, and even serious concerns like phototoxicity when exposed directly to the skin.
It’s best to dilute them first. If it’s for a massage, use olive oil or coconut oil. If it’s for beauty purposes, mix it with unscented lotion or shea butter.
Consult a Physician If Necessary
If you are pregnant/lactating, diabetic, epileptic, undergoing medications, or under a doctor’s care, do consult a physician before using essential oils.
Even if you have certain mild health conditions or possess sensitive skin, it’s better to take professional advice before using essential oils.
Keep Away From Children and Pets
Because essential oils are such potent extracts, they can be extremely harmful if they come in direct contact with a baby or pet’s sensitive skin. It could even be lethal for them.
So, make sure to keep your oils in a safe place if you have kids or pets at home.
General Side Effects to Keep In Mind
Here are some examples of essential oils and their specific harmful side effects.
- Peppermint – can cause irritation and rashes if directly applied to the skin. And even heart burns if ingested.
- Eucalyptus – this oil can cause seizures if ingested.
- Cinnamon – can cause mucous membrane irritation, nausea, vomiting, etc, if applied directly to the skin.
- Lavender – direct application has shown to affect hormones in teen males.
- Lemon Verbena, Orange – can cause photosensitivity and burning if applied directly under sun exposure.
Always Read Up
Every essential oil has different precautions to keep in mind based on its chemical composition.
It’s best if you do a bit of research before choosing your oils and staying updated on the right usage of essential oils.
This way, you won’t be taken unawares by health problems while using these aromatic drops.
And, that’s all folks! We hope this guide helps you navigate your way through essential oils, and get a breather from all that stress! After all, a little personal care can go a long way in ridding those icky thoughts from your mind and calming your senses after a wearying day.
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