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Essential Oils for Anxiety

Essential Oils for Anxiety

When used sensibly and mindfully, some essential oils have the potential to help reduce anxiety.

The ability for essential oils to assist with anxiety and stress was a key reason that I began using essential oils back in the 1990s. I was going through a difficult period, and I experienced a great deal of stress, anxiety and grief. I was cynical that essential oils would be helpful, but I was pleasantly surprised at how benecial particular essential oils were for me in helping to reduce stress and anxiety.

I, however, want to emphasize that not all essential oils ease anxiety. Some oils can be more stimulating. The method of use can also make a difference in how helpful a particular essential oil (or blend) is in reducing anxiety.

What Makes the 25 Essential Oils on the Below List More Likely to Help With Anxiety?

I'll try to keep this brief and as simple as possible. :)

Nearly half of the essential oils shown in the below list contain naturally occuring molecules that are known as esters. Several of the oils are abundant in a particular ester known as linalyl acetate. Many (but not all) compounds classified as esters can illicit a calming effect that can help to ease feelings of anxiety. Other oils in the list are abundant in particular monoterpene and/or sesquiterpene molecules that can elicit a soothing effect.

What Are Some of the Best Ways to Use Essential Oils When Trying to Reduce Anxiety?

Inhalation methods tend to be the most helpful for reducing anxiety:

Click on the name of each inhalation method mentioned above to view an introductory usage guide for each methods.

I especially love using a personal inhaler (also known by some as a sniffy stick, because they are portable and allow you to use essential oils without imposing the aroma on others. Using personal aromatherapy inhalers also encourages deep breathing which can also help with anxiety.

Essential oils can also be used (if properly diluted) in topical applications like body oils, but inhalation of the calming essential oil molecules is going to help get them into your system faster than by topical application.

Personal Example of How I Am Using Essential Oils Today to Reduce Anxiety

I live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. As I am writing this article, we are under a COVID-19 Stay-Safe/Stay Home executive order, and our county is expected to become one of the next hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks. It is also pouring rain right now with even heavier thunderstorms expected later. A number of local residents are starting to report that their basements are flooding. Normally, I wouldn't mind the rain, but last year, we experienced so much rain during a short period of time that our basement flooded eight inches. Since then, downfalls like this make me anxious. The COVID-19 crisis and this rainfall are contributing to a lot of anxiety for me right now.

I am currently using a personal inhaler that contains a blend of approximately 6 of the essential oils shown on the below list. I am using the personal inhaler 1-2x per nostril and repeating this about once every 60 minutes during this extreme anxiety. It helps a great deal. Although it doesn't eliminate my anxiety fully, it reduces it enough so that I can focus on my work or whatever I'm doing.

Do Essential Oils Reduce Anxiety for Everyone?

Everyone is different, so no.

The essential oils or blends that may be effective for many individuals based on anecdotal or clinical evidence may not be effective for you (or vice versa). So, I want to be careful as I do not want to mislead you or get your hopes up about the exact essential oils that could possibly be helpful for you.

As a simplified explanation, the volatile molecules present in an essential oil wind up in our bloodstream and can elicit an effect on our nervous system. Simultaneously, our olfactory and limbic system also play a part in our perception of the aroma of the molecules and whether we like or dislike the aroma or have a historical memory of the aroma (again, this is a very crude simplification). Even if the natural chemical composition of an essential oil is generally deemed to be calming, the essential oil could potentially be upsetting to you if you have a negative memory associated with the aroma. For example, if a relative was abusive to you as a child and that relative often ate oranges around you, you may experience anxiety when smelling orange essential oil despite that the aroma is generally perceived as pleasant and uplifting.

I want to emphasize that we are all different, and it's important not to expect that each essential oil on this list will be helpful for you. It's also ok if you hate or feel uneasy about the aroma of particular essential oils, even if they are on this list. Don't force yourself to use an essential oil if the aroma bothers you.

And having said that, it's also possible that you may find a particular essential oil incredibly helpful for you even if it's "not on the list." That's ok too.

Please just be sure to carefully read all of the safety data and contradictions that pertain to each essential oil that you wish to try.

Disclaimer: If you choose to use any of the essential oils or follow any of the ideas presented within this article, be sure to first discuss them with your doctor or counselor. If you believe that you are suffering from anxiety, you should consult with a qualified medical practitioner or psychiatric professional who can properly assist you. Use of essential oils should not be used as a replacement for proper medical attention and medications as necessary. When selecting and using essential oils, be sure to learn the safety precautions for each essential oil that you are consider using and learn about general essential oil safety precautions. I want to emphasize again that aromatherapy should not be used as a substitute for proper medical treatment and care.

List of Top 25 Essential Oils to Consider for Anxiety

Angelica Root

Sources: Battaglia, Holmes. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Bergamot

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Kerkhof, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Blue Tansy

Source: Holmes. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Cedarwood, Atlas

Sources: Holmes, Kerkhof, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Atlas Cedarwood is endangered, so I recommend substituting Virgin Cedarwood Essential Oil whenever possible.

Chamomile, Roman

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Kerkhof, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Clary Sage

Sources: Cantele, Kerkhof, Holmes. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Cypress

Source: Cantele, Kerkhof, Mojay. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Frankincense

Sources: Cantele, Holmes, Kerkhof, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Geranium

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Holmes, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Ho Wood

Source: Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Juniper Berry

Sources: Cantele, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Lavender

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Holmes, Kerkhof, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Lemon

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Mandarin

Sources: Cantele, Kerkhof, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Marjoram

Sources: Cantele, Holmes, Kerkhof. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Melissa

Sources: Cantele, Holmes, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Neroli

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Kerkhof, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Orange, Bitter

Sources: Cantele, Tisserand. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Orange, Sweet

Sources: Battaglia, Kerkhof, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Patchouli

Sources: Holmes, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Peppermint

Source: Cantele. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Petitgrain

Sources: Holmes, Tisserand. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Rose

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Holmes, Kerkhof, Mojay, Worwood (See Expanded Source Info Below.

Sandalwood

Source: Holmes, Kerkhof . (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Vetiver

Sources: Battaglia, Holmes, Mojay, Worwood. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Ylang Ylang

Sources: Battaglia, Cantele, Holmes, Kerkhof, Mojay. (See Expanded Source Info Below.)

Essential Oil Blends for Anxiety:

AromaWeb offers recipes for 4 blends that may help with anxiety:

Aromatherapy Recipes for Anxiety

Sources:

Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy Third Edition Volume 1 - Foundations & Materia Medica (Brisbane Australia: Black Pepper Creative, 2018).

Lora Cantele and Neryls Purchon, Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness (Toronto ON: Robert Rose, 2014).

Peter Holmes LAc, MH, Aromatica Volume 2: A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics, Applications and Profiles (London and Philadelphia: Singing Dragon, 2019).

Madeleine Kerkhof - Knapp Hayes, Complementary Nursing in End of Life Care (The Netherlands: Complementary Nursing - Kicozo, 2015 (First English Edition).

Gabriel Mojay, Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit (Rochester, VT: Healing ARts Press, 1997.

Tisserand Institute, Bitter Orange: Same Plant, Three Different Oils. Accessed: March 26, 2020.

Valerie Ann Worwood, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, 25th Anniversary Edition (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2016).

Disclaimer: If you choose to use any of the essential oils or follow any of the ideas presented within this article, be sure to first discuss them with your doctor or counselor. If you believe that you are suffering from anxiety, you should consult with a qualified medical practitioner or psychiatric professional who can properly assist you. Use of essential oils should not be used as a replacement for proper medical attention and medications as necessary. When selecting and using essential oils, be sure to learn the safety precautions for each essential oil that you are consider using and learn about general essential oil safety precautions. I want to emphasize again that aromatherapy should not be used as a substitute for proper medical treatment and care.

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