The Best Essential Oil for Anxiety

Erica Jones MHS Essential Oils Leave a Comment

by Erica Jones MHS

The Best Essential Oil for Anxiety

Each one of us has experienced moments of stress or anxiety produced by everyday occurrences like traffic, arguments, looming deadlines, etc. Then somewhere around 18.1% of the American adult population has experienced this anxiety to the point of having an anxiety disorder.

Either way – we need help. What are we to do about all of this stress, worry, and nervous unease?

Instead of making pharmaceuticals our first line of defense, I’m here to suggest some all natural methods that could add up to real relief. One of those methods are essential oil blends for anxiety.

Using an essential oil for anxiety isn’t just some nice idea or helpful placebo effect. Real scientific study has shown us time and time again that these treatments can be just as effective as medications with significantly (and I mean significantly) fewer negatives.

And unlike most health conditions which affect some people, but not others, stress and anxiety plague us all – though at very different degrees – which means an essential oil for anxiety can help every single human being.

So whether you’re a normally calm and peaceful person going through a stressful patch or if you feel crushed by the weight of an anxiety disorder – read on!

What Causes Anxiety?

The stress response is part of the human condition and is actually designed to save our lives from danger. It prepares us for fight or flight.

Any time we face a challenge – whether it be a difficult conversation with an employer or literally running from a hungry lion – our body shoots chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline through our bodies to get us ready to face that challenge (1).

  • We breathe more quickly
  • Our blood pressure goes up
  • Muscles tense
  • We can’t sleep (technically a survival skill – if you’re hiding from a bear, you don’t want to snooze)
  • We shake

All of this means the stress response is a good thing…or at least it’s supposed to be under the right conditions.

When this response is infrequent and in alignment with truly stressful events, it’s all good (though not fun!). When it happens repeatedly, even when life isn’t all that challenging, it can be a full-on anxiety disorder that harms our happiness and lives.

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An anxiety disorder could stem from past trauma (like PTSD) or difficult life events, it could come from biological factors, and it could come from lifestyle choices (2).

But one thing remains the same: we sometimes need a helping hand to calm our response and eliminate some of those anxiety symptoms. So we look for remedies…

Why Use Natural Remedies for Anxiety?

There are four main types of medications being used to treat the wide variety of anxiety disorders. Below I’m going to introduce you to them and also describe some of the most common side effects – which you’ll see are quite problematic (3, 4).

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These pills block serotonin from being absorbed, so you have more of it to boost your mood. They can often lead to weight gain, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRIs): These do the same thing as the SSRIs plus they also prevent the reabsorption of norepinephrine as well. Similar side effects are headache, heightened blood pressure, and upset stomach. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, SNRIs are often the first line of treatment.
  • Benzodiazepines: These include medications like Xanax and Valium and are used to really reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. They are supposed to only be for short-term treatment of anxiety (though many stay on long-term), but quickly fall into problems of dependence or tolerance (needing more and more to achieve the same effect). They can lead to sleeping problems and drowsiness.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants: These pills can cause your blood pressure to drop when you stand, blurry vision, and urinary retention.

Not only can taking these medications cause all of these negative side effects, but trying to get off of these medications can also be extremely difficult and even harmful. For example, benzodiazepines need careful tapering otherwise the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely painful and even fatal (5).

Yet, these medications remain the most common pills prescribed by a physician. In fact – they are the primary medications taken by those between the ages of 18 and 44. Over 1 in 10 people in the United States are on anxiety medications.

Without a doubt, there are some cases when medical intervention is necessary. In these cases, you should be intentional about finding a doctor who understands the risks, prescribes correctly, and remains open to other alternative treatments as well.

But for many of us, medication isn’t our only choice. There are many things we can do to deal with anxiety (whether it be a quick acute case or a chronic disorder) that do not lead to the same detrimental side effects.

What types of options does somebody have to deal with anxiety and stress naturally? (6)

  • Talk Therapy/Support Groups
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Proper, Balanced Diet
  • L-Theanine
  • Ashwagandha
  • Magnesium
  • Essential Oil for Anxiety

While these are all fabulous options, in this article we are going to focus on the essential oil for anxiety.

Essential Oils for Anxiety

So what’s the best essential oil for anxiety? There are a few! Below I’m going to explain why each essential oil for anxiety is so effective, and share lots of studies that have proven these ideas to be true.

1- Lavender

If you could only choose one essential oil for anxiety ( and have it be the best essential oil for anxiety ) it would undoubtedly be lavender.

Of course, the focus should be on essential oil blends for anxiety that combine their strengths for a significant relaxing effect. But there’s no doubt that lavender is a powerful tool for combating stress and anxiety on its own.

One 2012 study found that lavender oil can significantly (7):

  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Decrease heart rate
  • Decrease skin temperature
  • Increase activity
  • Increase relaxation
  • Increase theta and alpha brain activity

A 2016 study gave women who had just delivered a baby a lavender essential oil treatment (inhalation) for 4 weeks. They found that stress, anxiety and depression significantly reduced at both the 1 month and 3 month postpartum points (8).

Other human studies have shown effects of lavender such as (9):

  • Similar anti-anxiety effects to lorazepam
  • Mood improvement with admittance into intensive care unit
  • Mood improvement in those on kidney dialysis
  • Reduced anxiety in dental patients
  • Lower mild anxiety when shown anxiety-provoking film clips
  • Improved sleep which lowers anxiety (and vice versa)
  • Improved acute, chronic, and intractable pain (which lowers anxiety)

2 – Frankincense

The next essential oil for anxiety is Frankincense, one of the most powerfully healing oils for the body – and its strengths are just as helpful for your mind and emotions.

One study aimed to see if an essential oil blend for anxiety, which included frankincense, lavender, and bergamot could have an effect on pain, anxiety, and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer. They applied the essential oil blend for anxiety through a diluted hand massage (they used sweet almond oil).

Unsurprisingly, the blend had a positive effect (10).

Which all makes sense when you think about the fact frankincense has been used in religious and spiritual ceremonies for centuries. It’s a peaceful oil.

3 – Vetiver

The earthy and woody vetiver is extremely grounding in nature – something anybody feeling stress needs more of. And this essential oil for anxiety may be just as effective as popular anxiety medications.

Diazepam (the most common brand name is Valium) is a common anxiolytic and sedative belonging to the benzodiazepine family – remember these medications shouldn’t be taken long term, and they can be quite dangerous to get off of.

A group of rats were either given diazepam for 30 minutes or inhaled vetiver essential oil for 7 minutes. Then they were all exposed to something called the elevated plus-maze which brings them into an “anxiety-related behavior model.”

Both the vetiver oil and the diazepam lowered the gene (c-fos), which is involved in anxiety.

This is huge news. The researchers concluded that vetiver just may actually be able to alter the brain activity enough to lower the anxiety process (11).

4 – Roman Chamomile

If a mug of chamomile tea can help calm you before bed, the concentrated Roman chamomile essential oil for anxiety can go even further!

One study combined lavender with the Roman chamomile (and a tiny bit of neroli) and gave an aromatherapy treatment to intensive care unit patients getting a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). The researchers wanted to see how this oil combo would affect anxiety, sleep, and blood pressure.

They were treated with this essential oil blend for anxiety 10 times before the PCI and 10 times after the PCI. The aromatherapy group had “significantly low anxiety” as well as improved sleep compared to the control (12).

5 – Rose Oil

Rose is uplifting and calming at the same time – making it a perfect essential oil for anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, so be sure to check out our guide to essential oils for depression as well.

One of the most anxiety-producing times is when a first-time mother is entering childbirth. The fear of pain can even cause cramps interfering with the contraction/delivery process. Rose can help!

One study broke into three groups of 120 women who were pregnant for the first time. One group received 10 minutes of rose oil inhalation and a rose oil foot bath. Another group received 10 minutes of a warm water foot bath. The final group received only routine labor care.

Both treatments help to reduce anxiety of mothers but the rose oil group had the lowest anxiety when it came to the beginning of the active labor phase (13).

6 – Ylang Ylang

The next best essential oil for anxiety is ylang ylang – a sweet, yet spicy oil that was used traditionally in religious or wedding ceremonies. In today’s world, one of its most popular uses is de-stressing.

A 2006 study found that topical ylang ylang use led participants to feeling calmer and more relaxed than control groups (14).

One other study even showed that an essential oil blend for anxiety of ylang ylang, lavender, and lemon could bring down blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity (15).

But perhaps one of the most interesting ways ylang ylang becomes a fabulous essential oil for anxiety is its ability to calm sexual anxiety and enhance the libido (16).

7 – Marjoram

Finally, we get to our last essential oil for anxiety, and it’s one of the more specialty oils. Marjoram is typically only thought of in terms of spicing up your meal. It’s often in soups or dressings. But it’s also extremely calming and it’s one of my absolute favorite essential oils for relaxation.

Adding marjoram to one of your essential oil blends for anxiety is key.

A 2012 study looked at 83 patients with pre-hypertension or hypertension and split them up into three groups. One group was given an essential oil treatment with lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram (and a tiny bit of neroli). The second group inhaled artificial fragrances. The third inhaled nothing.

The essential oil group had lower cortisol counts, improved blood pressure, and overall reduced stress (17).

Another study showed that combining this spicy oil to other ingredients like lavender and juniper helped improve the well-being in older patients (as well as improve sleep) (18).

When used internally, it can even positively affect the nervous system.

How to Use Your Essential Oil for Anxiety

Now let’s dive into how to use an essential oil for anxiety most effectively. Typically, the best thing to do is to choose a few and create an essential oil blend for anxiety.

Throughout this section, I’ll share some sample DIY essential oil blend for anxiety recipes, but if you aren’t interested in making your own blend, a great choice is to choose one of the many premade essential oil blends for anxiety, like doTERRA’s Peace Blend or their Serenity Blend. The Peace essential oil blend for anxiety includes:

  • Vetiver
  • Lavender
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Frankincense
  • Clary Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Labdanum
  • Spearmint

Their Serenity blend includes:

  • Lavender
  • Cedarwood
  • Ho Wood Leaf
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Marjoram
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Vetiver
  • Vanilla
  • Hawaiian Sandalwood

1- Diffuse During Stress

Diffusing an essential oil for anxiety during times of low, moderate, or high stress can be a great way to prevent a full-on anxiety attack and give you peace of mind.

  • Use a diffuser in your bedroom before you go to sleep to help you avoid the stress of insomnia
  • Buy a car diffuser so it can run while you’re dealing with traffic
  • Wear a diffuser necklace to work or buy a small table diffuser to set on your desk

The blogger Brown Thumb Mama shares one of her favorite essential oil blends for anxiety that’s gentle and great for your little ones as well:

  • 3 Drops Lavender
  • 2 Drops Roman Chamomile
  • 2 Drops Ylang Ylang

Feel free to experiment with diffusing each essential oil for anxiety on this list. Some people respond better to certain oils than others. While one may feel calmed by the sweet, high frequency of rose, another may feel calmed by the earthy vetiver.

Tip: If you don’t have a diffuser, you can easily put a couple drops of two of your favorite oils into a spray bottle with water and a splash of vodka (for good mixing), and spray your pillow and/or sheets before you hop into bed.

2- Massage Away Stress

Using an essential oil for anxiety topically gives you a double win. You get the benefits of the essential oil blend for anxiety plus you get the relaxation of a soothing massage.

I like focusing on two areas in particular: my feet and my neck. The feet are one of the best places to absorb essential oils in the body. And the neck is often one of our most tense regions.

Here’s a calming essential oil blend for anxiety that I love from the blogger Jams and Scones. It’s packed with some of the most potent oils for stress, worry, and anxiety.

  • 5 drops of Vetiver
  • 2 drops of Lavender
  • 2 drops of Ylang Ylang
  • 1 drop of Frankincense
  • 1 drop of Clary Sage
  • 1 drop of Marjoram
  • Fractionated coconut oil (sweet almond oil is great too)

Add all of your drops into a 10 ml rollerbottle and then top it off with the carrier oil. Shake and use whenever you need a little peace in your life.

3 – Soak the Stress Away

A warm bath is a fabulous way to calm the body on its own. Add in some essential oil for anxiety, and you’ve got yourself a wonderful all-natural treatment.

Here’s a great, simple bath-time essential oil blend for anxiety from Natural Living Ideas:

  • 10 drops of Lavender
  • 5 drops of Roman Chamomile
  • Handful of sea salt (or Epsom salt)
  • 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil

4 – Sip Away Stress

A few of these oils can be taken internally to help add extra feelings of calmness. Not every type of essential oil should be used internally (and certainly not every brand has high enough quality!). But if you choose a reputable brand this can really be an extra benefit.

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Here are a couple of my favorite options to take an essential oil for anxiety internally:

  • Marjoram: You can take one drop in 4 fl. oz. of liquid or you can add some to any recipe that would call for dried marjoram
  • Roman Chamomile: You can take one drop in 4 fl. oz. or add a drop or two to your nice warm mug of tea

Tip: That same doTERRA Serenity blend I mentioned before is offered in softgels to help you calm your anxieties and sleep well. This can be a convenient option for you as well.

Your Best Essential Oil for Anxiety

Using an essential oil for anxiety to beat everyday stress or to help you overcome an anxiety disorder can be a really empowering thing. It’s one of many small steps you can take to make sure your health and wellness includes your mental and emotional self too!

What are your favorite natural remedies for anxiety or stress? Do you ever turn to an essential oil blend for anxiety? What is the best essential oil for anxiety that you’ve found? Please share your thoughts with our community in a comment below.

Sources

  1. Nordqvist, Christian (2017) Why stress happens and how to manage it. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145855.php
  2. ADAA (2016) What causes anxiety disorders? Retrieved from: https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/faqs/what-causes-anxiety-disorders#
  3. ADAA (2016) Medication. Retrieved from: https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/medication
  4. Anderson, L. (2014) Benzodiazepines: Overview and Use. Drugs.com Retrieved from: https://www.drugs.com/article/benzodiazepines.html#adverse-effects
  5. American Addiction Centers (2018) Can Heroin, Benzo or Alcohol Withdrawl Cause Death? Retrieved from: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/risk-of-death/
  6. Axe (2018) How to Relax & Find Calm: 15 Natural Remedies for Anxiety. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/natural-remedies-anxiety/
  7. Sayorwan W1, Siripornpanich V, Piriyapunyaporn T, Hongratanaworakit T, Kotchabhakdi N, Ruangrungsi N. (2012) The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity. 95(4):598-606 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612017
  8. Kianpour, M., Mansouri, A., Mehrabi, T., & Asghari, G. (2016). Effect of lavender scent inhalation on prevention of stress, anxiety and depression in the postpartum period. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research21(2), 197–201. http://doi.org/10.4103/1735-9066.178248
  9. Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM2013, 681304. http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/681304
  10. Chang SY.   Effects of Aroma Hand Massage on Pain, State Anxiety and Depression in Hospice Patients with Terminal Cancer.   J Korean Acad Nurs. 2008 Aug;38(4):493-502. https://doi.org/10.4040/jkan.2008.38.4.493
  11. Saiyudthong S1, Pongmayteegul S2, Marsden CA3, Phansuwan-Pujito P2. (2015) Anxiety-like behaviour and c-fos expression in rats that inhaled vetiver essential oil. 29(22):2141-4. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2014.99234 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25553641
  12. Cho, M.-Y., Min, E. S., Hur, M.-H., & Lee, M. S. (2013). Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM2013, 381381. http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/381381
  13. Kheirkhah, M., Vali Pour, N. S., Nisani, L., & Haghani, H. (2014). Comparing the Effects of Aromatherapy With Rose Oils and Warm Foot Bath on Anxiety in the First Stage of Labor in Nulliparous Women. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal16(9), e14455. http://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.14455
  14. Hongratanaworakit, T. and Buchbauer, G. (2006), Relaxing effect of ylang ylang oil on humans after transdermal absorption. Phytother. Res., 20: 758-763. doi:10.1002/ptr.1950
  15. Cha JH, Lee SH, Yoo YS.  Effects of Aromatherapy on Changes in the Autonomic Nervous System, Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity and Aortic Augmentation Index in Patients with Essential Hypertension.   J Korean Acad Nurs. 2010 Oct;40(5):705-713.   https://doi.org/10.4040/jkan.2010.40.5.705
  16. Steven Holt.Alternative and Complementary Therapies.Oct 1999.ahead of printhttp://doi.org/10.1089/act.1999.5.279
  17. Kim, I.-H., Kim, C., Seong, K., Hur, M.-H., Lim, H. M., & Lee, M. S. (2012). Essential Oil Inhalation on Blood Pressure and Salivary Cortisol Levels in Prehypertensive and Hypertensive Subjects. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM2012, 984203. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/984203
  18. Koulivand, P. H., Khaleghi Ghadiri, M., & Gorji, A. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM2013, 681304. http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/681304
  19. Brown Thumb Mama (2018) Best Diffuser Blends for Stress & Anxiety Retrieved from: https://brownthumbmama.com/diffuser-blends-stress-anxiety/
  20. James and Scones (2017) Calming the Anxious Child with Essential Oils. Retreived from: https://jamsandscones.com/calming-anxious-child-essential-oils
  21. Patterson, Susan (2016). 12 Essential Oil Elixirs To Ad To Your Bath To Fix Almost Anything. Retrieved from: http://www.naturallivingideas.com/essential-oils-to-add-to-your-bath/

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