In this post, I will share with you the best essential oils for supporting those with anxiety and/or depression, how to use them and which oils to use together when making your own anti-anxiety essential oil blends.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are oils extracted from the flowers, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits and other parts of a plant (1). Essential means “essence of” a plant fragrance.
The use of essential oils dates back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians who used them in religious rituals, beauty care, food preparation and preservation, as incense, and for perfumes. It wasn’t until more recently that the medicinal effects of essential oils have been studied in relation to common ailments and emotional states. Essential oils can be inhaled, diffused, diluted and applied topically to the skin or used in massage oils.
How do they work?
Essential oils are well known for their use in aromatherapy for their relaxing and mood-enhancing effects.
When inhaled, essential oils work by triggering receptors in the nose, which send signals to parts of the brain, such as the limbic system and the hypothalamus (2) where memories and emotions are stored (3).
These signals stimulate the release of neurotransmitters, affecting our moods and emotions (2). In this way, essential oils can be used to enhance well-being and manage emotions.
Essential oils have been used for depression, anxiety, indigestion, headaches, insomnia, muscle pain, skin ailments, hormonal imbalances and infections, among other conditions.
Which ones to use for anxiety?
The following essential oils can have a positive effect on mood by reducing anxiety and depression.
Research indicates that essential oils interact with the central nervous system and influence the release of neurotransmitters
- Clary Sage (Earthy): found to increase serotonin and reduce cortisol, both of which are considered to be factors in depression. (4)
- Lemon oil (fresh and zesty): has anti-stress and anti-depressive effects, thought to be via the GABA-nergic, serotoninergic and dopaminergic system (5)
- Rose oil (sweet and floral): has an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect by decreasing cortisol and increasing serotonin receptor activity (6)(7)
- Sweet Orange (sweet citrus): found to have anxiolytic effects (8).
- Bitter orange (uplifting citrus): found to reduce pain, anxiety and fatigue in labour (9)
- Bergamot (citrusy and spicy): found to have an anti-anxiety effect (10) and anti-depressive effect (2)
- Lavender (cleansing and refreshing): increases parasympathetic tone (i.e. part of the nervous system responsible for feeling relaxed), and also has antibacterial, antifungal, anxiolytic, antidepressant, analgesic and carminative properties (smooth-muscle relaxant) (11)
- Jasmine oil (uplifting and floral): increases feelings of well-being whilst reducing drowsiness (12)
- Vetiver (Earthy): has anti-anxiety and sedative properties similar to the drug diazepam (benzodiazepine) (13)
- Roman chamomile (light fresh apple): has anxiolytic effects and may help with mild to moderate anxiety in General Anxiety Disorder (14)
Where to buy essential oils
Quality is important, so make sure you purchase your essential oils from a reputable company. My personal favourites are Neal’s Yard, DoTerra and Young Living. Organic is best to reduce the risk of contamination with pesticides.
Adulterated (poor quality) oils will have a chemical smell to them and can leave you with a headache after use.
How to use?
For use in the bath: 5-6 drops to 2 tbsp of bath oil
For use as massage oil: 15 drops in 2 tbsp of carrier oil
To diffuse: 1-3 drops in an oil diffuser
Or add 1-2 drops to an oil diffusing necklace or bracelet like these here and here.
To make an essential oil roller: use between 4-10 drops in one 10ml bottle. 4 drops (2% dilution) is considered safe for everyday use and 10 drops (5% dilution) is considered safe for short term use if using 10ml of carrier oil. Carrier oils to use: jojoba, fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, rosehip oil. These are the type of roller bottles to use.
Make a blend of anti-anxiety essential oils
Clary sage – blends well with vetiver, lavender, geranium and jasmine
Lemon oil – peppermint, rosemary and juniper
Rose oil – blends well with geranium, bergamot and black pepper
Lavender – blends well with clary sage and marjoram
Orange – blends well with mandarin, cardamom, chamomile and vetiver
Bergamot – black pepper, cypress, frankincense, orange and lemon balm
Jasmine oil – blends well with black pepper, bergamot and frankincense
Vetiver – Earthy scent – blends well with rose, ginger and bergamot
Roman chamomile – blends well with mandarin, orange and rose
My personal favourite blends are
Orange and Roman Chamomile
Lavender and clary sage
Lemon and peppermint
Bergamot, frankincense and jasmine
Do not ingest essential oils and do not apply neat to skin.
Further research needs to be completed to find out how essential oils interact with other treatments and medications.
It is recommended that children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women avoid using essential oils, as it is not yet known the effect that they may have on them.
Essential oils such as lavender, orange, bergamot and many others can improve moods by reducing anxiety and depression. I love making my own blends and wearing them in oil diffusing jewellery. Besides having anxiety-reducing effects, they also make natural perfumes so you don’t have to buy synthetic perfumes. If you’re looking for natural ways to support your moods, try making your own blend from the list of essential oils in this post. Let me know which blends you like and what effects you’ve noticed on your moods!
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- Ali, B., Al-Wabel, N.A., Shams, S., Ahamad, A., Khan, S.A. and Anwar, F., 2015. Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, [online] 5(8), pp.601–611. Available at: <http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apjtb.2015.05.007>.
- Sánchez-Vidaña, D.I., Ngai, S.P.C., He, W., Chow, J.K.W., Lau, B.W.M. and Tsang, H.W.H., 2017. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017.
- Rajmohan, V., & Mohandas, E. (2007). The limbic system. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(2), 132–139. http://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.33264
- Lee, K.B., Cho, E. and Kang, Y.S., 2014. Changes in 5-hydroxytryptamine and cortisol plasma levels in menopausal women after inhalation of clary sage oil. Phytotherapy Research, 28(11), pp.1599–1605.
- Komiya, M., Takeuchi, T. and Harada, E., 2006. Lemon oil vapor causes an anti-stress effect via modulating the 5-HT and DA activities in mice. Behavioural Brain Research, 172(2), pp.240–249.
- Hongratanaworakit, T., 2009. Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans. Prod.Comm., [online] 4(2), pp.291–296. Available at: <%5C%5CRobsrv-05%5Creference manager%5CArticles%5C10965.pdf>.
- Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F. and Nejatbakhsh, F., 2017. Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, [online] 7(3), pp.206–213. Available at: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28748167%0Ahttp://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=PMC5511972>.
- Goes, T.C., Ursulino, F.R.C., Almeida-Souza, T.H., Alves, P.B. and Teixeira-Silva, F., 2015. Effect of Lemongrass Aroma on Experimental Anxiety in Humans. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, [online] 21(12), pp.766–773. Available at: <http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2015.0099>.
- Asazawa, K., Kato, Y., Yamaguchi, A. and Inoue, A., 2017. The Effect of Aromatherapy Treatment on Fatigue and Relaxation for Mothers during the Early Puerperal Period in Japan: A Pilot Study. International journal of community-based nursing and midwifery, [online] 5(4), pp.365–375. Available at: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29043282>.
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- Malcolm, B.J. and Tallian, K., 2017. Essential oil of lavender in anxiety disorders: Ready for prime time? Mental Health Clinician, [online] 7(4), pp.147–155. Available at: <http://mhc.cpnp.org/doi/10.9740/mhc.2017.07.147>.
- Sayowan, W., Siripornpanich, V., Hongratanaworakit, T., Kotchabhakdi, N. and Ruangrungsi, N., 2013. the Effects of Jasmine Oil Inhalation on Brain Wave Activities and Emotions. J Health Res , 27(2).
- Saiyudthong, S., Pongmayteegul, S., Marsden, C.A. and Phansuwan-Pujito, P., 2015. Anxiety-like behaviour and c-fos expression in rats that inhaled vetiver essential oil. Natural Product Research, 29(22), pp.2141–2144.
- Srivastava, J.K.,Shankar, E and Gupta, S. 2011. Chamomile : A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.Mol Med Report. 3(6), pp.895–901.