For centuries throughout history, essential oils have been used by humans – even dating as far back as the biblical days. Remember the bible story of the birth of Jesus? He was anointed with myrrh and frankincense when he was born, which are both essential oils. In fact, these powerful healing oils were also used by other ancient cultures like the Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, and Europeans.
Archaeologists in Egypt have excavated extremely old tombs, over 2,000 years old, and have routinely found traces of essential oils along with mummy remains. Most likely they were used as part of the embalming process. During World War II, a french surgeon named Jean Valnet rediscovered the benefits of essential oils and used them to help treat and heal injured soldiers. This was at a time when many medications were scarce and difficult to access, so essential oils were used quite extensively during that time.
Today, in modern times, essential oils are still used by aromatherapists, massage therapists, doctors, and medical practitioners because they are an effective all-natural treatment for a variety of different medical conditions. Many modern medications are actually engineered to behave like plant oils, except they often come with adverse side effects. Essential oils are nothing more than the extracted oil of flowers, leaves, bark, roots, trees, shrubs, etc. They come with zero side effects, and in this article we’ll be talking about how they can be used as a natural way to treat anxiety.
Best Essential Oils For Anxiety
Anxiety can be tough to deal with, since it can interfere with social situations, make work difficult, affect concentration, strain relationships, and can disrupt almost every aspect of daily life. The good news is that essential oils provide a very effective way to help deal with and cure anxiety.
In 2014, there was a study conducted by the American College of Healthcare Sciences. Subjects in the study were comprised of 58 hospice care patients who were suffering from chronic anxiety. Once per day for 7 consecutive days, half of the patients were given a normal hand massage. The other half of patients were given the same type of hand massage, but with one difference: the masseuse used a blend of bergamot, frankincense, and lavender essential oil. The result was that nearly every single patient receiving the massage with essential oils reported increased feelings of calmness and relaxation throughout their day, while the group who received a hand massage with no essential oils did not report any significant difference in their mood or emotional state. That is an extremely positive outlook on using essential oils as a natural remedy for anxiety!
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil is one of the most popular essential oils, because it’s so versatile. It is known for having a profound effect on both physical and mental calmness and relaxation. Because of how lavender interacts with our nervous system, it promotes deeper sleep, reduced irritability, reduced incidence of panic attacks, and physically relaxes your muscles, stomach, and relieves nervous tension.
There is a book on essential oils, called “The Handbook of Essential Oils” and lavender is thoroughly discussed and cited in several different clinical trials and studies. Results from these trials concluded that even the aroma of lavender oil alone is effective in reducing stress and anxiety. This means that simply diffusing lavender throughout the night, or inhaling it from the bottle periodically throughout your day can greatly help reduce anxiety.
While we don’t generally recommend the internal consumption of essential oils, it’s still worth noting that one study did analyze the result of oral ingestion of lavender oil. It was found that lavender oil, when ingested internally, has an anxiolytic effect which lowers the heart rate. Other studies involved pre-surgery patients and dental patients who reported feelings of anxiety before their operation or dental work. Lavender oil proved to be successful in calming those patients and ridding their bodies of anxious feelings and emotions.
2. Rose Essential Oil
Rose essential oil (not to be confused with rosemary essential oil) is also a very popular essential oil. It is great, especially in combination with lavender oil, at relieving anxiety and depression, and in preventing panic attacks. Rose oil is known to ease the “emotional heart,” as well as the physical heart.
One study conducted on women who were pregnant (for their first time) showed very promising results. The pregnant women were split into two groups: the first group received a 12 minute foot bath in warm water, while the second group received the same foot bath with the only difference being that rose oil was added to the water and the women also inhaled the aroma of rose oil from a small bottle. The results? The rose oil group reported more significant changes in their emotional state, including feeling more calm and more relaxed than before their foot bath. They also reported having fewer “worries,” which is a common ailment among pregnant women. If you are pregnant, make sure you consult with your physician before using any essential oils.
3. Vetiver Essential Oil
The next essential oil for anxiety is Vetiver. It’s known for having a very serene and tranquil energy which promotes feelings of reassurance, stabled, and grounded. Vetiver oil has a unique interaction with our nervous system in that it has the ability to reduce jittery feelings and hypersensitive emotional distress. As a result, it is particularly effective in treating and preventing panic attacks.
A study performed by a group of researchers called Natural Product Research sought to examine the effect of anxious behavior in mice. After being shown pictures of natural predators, physical measures were recorded including heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Mice who were standing on a thin mat coated in vetiver oil displayed a lowered anxious physical response to the predator photos than the mice who were not exposed to vetiver. The researchers were surprised at this outcome, but it does show that vetiver can be a very effective natural remedy for anxiety.
4. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Ylang ylang oil is a very calming and uplifting oil. It has a pleasant, soft aroma that creates feelings of optimism, happiness, and courage. It’s claim to fame is it’s unique ability to curb heart agitations and reduce nervous ticks and palpitations. Inside our bodies, it has similar properties to that of a physical sedative and is particularly useful at helping with insomnia and delivering a more restful sleep – which has been shown to be a very effective way to reduce general feelings of anxiety.
A study undertaken by the Geochang Provincial College in Korea studied the effect of an essential oil blend of bergamot, lavender, and ylang ylang oil. On a group of patients who all shared a common condition of high blood pressure and hypertension, this blend was used in a 4-week treatment consisting of aromatherapeutic exposure along with topical application through body massages. This extremely powerful healing blend was actually shown to be just as effective as existing chemical-based medications for hypertension. Ylang ylang is very potent and like all essential oils, you should perform a patch test before using it on your skin. Place a single drop on the inside of your arm and monitor for any adverse skin reaction for 1-2 minutes. If you have a medically diagnosed blood pressure condition, consult with your physician before using ylang ylang.
5. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot is a wonderfully calming essential oil with an uplifting citrus aroma. You’ll likely find bergamot as an ingredient in many types of tea, like Earl Grey. It’s been shown to be an effective treatment for both depression and anxiety, due to it’s relaxation-inducing and agitation-reducing properties. Studies have shown that bergamot oil can reduce corticosterone and stress in mice, and human-based studies have shown that it is an effective way to reduce a racing heart rate.
In 2011, a study was conducted to examine the affects of topical and aromatic usage of bergamot oil on self-reported feelings of anxiety and depression. Study participants were split into two groups, one was a control group who had no treatment. The second group received the bergamot oil treatment for 3 weeks. After the treatment was over, the control group who did not use any essential oils reported no significant difference in emotional state. The second group who used bergamot had a slightly lower resting heart rate than pre-treatment, and several participants who exhibited high blood pressure now had normal blood pressure. The entire group reported that they felt more calm and more relaxed than before the treatment. It’s a very effective way to naturally reduce anxiety. Bergamot can cause increased sun sensitivity in your skin, so do not use bergamot prior to planned sun exposure like going to the beach or working outside.
6. Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile oil creates balance and harmony, while eliminating the sense of worry and irritability. The University of Pennsylvania carried out a study to explore how effective chamomile functions as an antidepressant and anxiety-reducer. The results concluded that chamomile essential oil “may provide clinically meaningful antidepressant activity” and was observed to have an anxiolytic effect (just like lavender does).
A second study performed by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health determined that chamomile ingested internally via capsules reduced anxiety symptoms in study participants. We do not generally recommend the internal consumption of essential oils, but it is well known that using essential oils aromatically and topically can result in the same benefits as internal consumption is a safe method of usage. Like all essential oils, perform a patch test before using directly on your skin. If you are allergic to ragweed you might also experience allergies to chamomile.
7. Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense is a very spiritual essential oil and helps balance emotions and hormones within the body. It creates sensations of tranquility, relaxation, and awareness. In the world of aromatherapy, it is often used in meditation, self reflection, and yoga. To reduce anxiety, mix frankincense oil with bergamot and lavender of equal parts. Using this blend, the Keimyung University in Korea found that study participants were able to achieve reduced pain and depression in terminal cancer patients.
If you’ve never experienced the aroma of frankincense, it will be especially relaxing and calming on your first use. Many users inhale the aroma of frankincense from a bottle upon first waking up in the morning, since this allows you to center yourself and start the day off in a calm, relaxed, but aware state.
How To Treat Anxiety With Essential Oils
Now that we’ve discussed which specific essential oils are most effective for reducing anxiety, let’s take a look at the different methods of using these oils.
1. Aromatic Treatment
This is the most popular way essential oils are used. Using essential oils aromatically simply means to inhale the aroma. This can be done in different ways:
- Use an essential oil diffuser to vaporize the oil and mist it into the air
- Use a personal steam inhaler with your favorite essential oil
- Use a few drops of oil in the palm of your hand while you’re in the shower
- Place a few drops of oil in a hot bath
Our sense of smell is much more powerful than most people realize. Our olfactory receptors are able to process enormous amounts of information and transfer molecules from an aroma into our blood and brain. Our sense of smell also serves as an emotional trigger and can be used to manage emotional wellbeing and create sensations of happiness and positivity.
When an essential oil aroma is inhaled, tiny molecules from the air enter the nasal cavity and stimulate a mental response in a part of our brain called the limbic system. The limbic system is able to regulate hormones responsible for stress and can help regulate physical heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.
2. Topical Treatment
The other popular way to use essential oils is topically. This is the term used whenever your body comes in direct physical contact with an essential oil. It could be from your skin, hair, nails, feet, or any part of your body. The tiny molecules that make up plant oils are capable of penetrating our skin and entering our blood stream.
It’s important to dilute most oils before applying them to your skin, since quality pure essential oils are very concentrated. Common carrier oils are almond, jojoba, coconut, and avocado oil. Once you’ve properly diluted an essential oil, you can then apply it to the bottoms of your feet, behind the ears, the back of your neck, top of your chest, on your abdomen, or on sore muscles.
Essential Oil Anxiety Recipes
Here are a couple recipes you can start using today and immediate experience relief from your anxiety.
Lavender Neck Rub
- Ingredients: 3 drops of lavender oil in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil
- Directions: Mix this in a small dish and apply to the back of your neck before going to bed
Frankincense and Bergamot Bliss