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Essential oils are aromatic substances that can be extracted from plants using distillation. It’s possible to obtain essential oils from many different parts of a plant, including, but not limited to the leaves, flowers, and roots.
In addition to being used as scents for a variety of consumer and natural products, some essential oils may be used for various health applications. When essential oils are used to promote well-being, it’s referred to as aromatherapy.
Some of the possible uses of essential oils in aromatherapy include things like managing pain, helping with digestion, and reducing stress and anxiety. While scientific evidence for many of these uses is lacking, research is ongoing to learn more about the benefits of essential oils.
The article below will examine 18 essential oils that may help with symptoms of anxiety. We’ll discuss:
- their potential benefits for anxiety and other conditions
- how they can be applied
- the things to keep in mind before using them
One theory of how aromatherapy works is that essential oils can stimulate the smell receptors in your nose, which then sends messages to your nervous system. Some also believe that essential oils can have a subtle effect on the body’s chemical and energy systems.
Because of this, aromatherapy is often used as a natural remedy to help relieve anxiety and stress. Topical applications and inhalation are some common ways that essential oils can be used for aromatherapy.
Essential oils should never be ingested, despite claims on the internet that suggest otherwise. There’s not enough research on any one essential oil to prove it’s safe to swallow. Each essential oil is very different, and some are toxic.
It’s important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate essential oils, so be diligent in your practice. You should only use therapeutic-grade oils that don’t contain synthetic fragrance and only purchase from a trusted source.
Once you have an essential oil picked out and on hand, you’ll want to make sure you consider who is going to inhale it.
Some essential oils are dangerous for children, others are not safe for pregnant and breastfeeding parents, and there are a number that are potentially toxic to pets. When applicable, consult a medical professional, like your pediatrician, OB-GYN, and veterinarian, before implementing use.
We had a few considerations in mind as we pulled together our list of the best essential oils for anxiety.
First, we looked for reputable companies that manufacture unadulterated, therapeutic-grade oils. While there isn’t an industry standard for that term, some companies use it to differentiate between higher quality essential oils, and others that are made synthetically or that come blended with carrier oils, which are made from nuts or seeds. (Note that if you apply essential oils topically, you’ll want a carrier oil to dilute it.)
We also prioritized essential oils that come with certifications about their purity. Typically, that means gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) testing to confirm botanical origins and detect contaminants.
Finally, we looked for companies that are transparent about their production methods and botanical sourcing. High quality essential oils that offer therapeutic value should be produced by steam-distilling or cold-pressed, and made with plant material only.
Prices vary depending on the amount of essential oil in a bottle. In our guide, we’ve listed the price per fluid ounce.
- $: Under $25
- $$: $25–50
- $$$: Over $50
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Valerian is an herb that has been used since ancient times. Valerian essential oil comes from the roots of the plant and has a bold scent that may be described as woody, earthy, or musky. Some individuals may find this scent to be unpleasant.
Valerian is thought to contain compounds that promote sleep and calm nerves. It can have a mild sedative effect on the body. Because of this, it’s often used as a sleep aid.
We like the oil from Edens Garden because the company tests every batch of essential oils and makes GC/MS reports available to confirm purity and therapeutic value.
- How to use: Add a few drops of valerian oil to an aromatherapy diffuser and inhale. Valerian may make you sleepy or relaxed.
- Best used for: In addition to its uses for sleep and anxiety, valerian can also be used to help with headache, trembling, and heart palpitations.
- It’s a 100 percent therapeutic-grade essential oil.
- It’s well-reviewed by customers.
- The company is women- and family-owned.
- Valerian has a strong scent that many people don’t like.
Jatamansi is in the same plant family as valerian. You may also see it referred to as spikenard. The essential oil is made from the roots of the plant and has an earthy or woody scent. Jatamansi is used in Ayurvedic medicine to calm the mind and encourage sleep.
According to a
The jatamansi oil from R V Essential is therapeutic grade and made with no fillers, pesticides, or harsh chemicals.
- How to use: Massage diluted jatamansi oil into your temples or forehead. Make sure to use it one drop at a time to prevent it from accidentally getting into your eyes.
- Best used for: Jatamansi can be used as a sleep aid and to help ease symptoms of depression. It may also help relieve pain and inflammation.
- Jatamansi oil has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine, and studies of rodents show it may have significant anti-anxiety effects.
- R V Essential offers it in a few different sizes.
- Oils from R V Essential are cruelty-free and lab-tested for safety and purity.
- R V Essential may take a long time to ship the oil, which could mean you need to wait.
- If you apply the oil to your temples or forehead, you’ll need to exercise caution to prevent it from getting into your eyes.
Lavender is one of the most popular aromatherapy oils. It has a sweet floral scent with a woody or herbal undertone.
Lavender oil can be used to calm anxiety. It also has a sedative effect and may help with sleep troubles, including if feelings of stress or anxiety are keeping you up at night.
According to 2012 research, lavender aromatherapy is thought to calm anxiety by impacting the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions.
A 2019 review evaluated 71 studies that used lavender to ease anxiety. It found that inhaling lavender could significantly lower anxiety levels measured using a clinically validated scale. Massage with lavender oil was also found to help reduce anxiety levels.
Plant Therapy’s lavender oil is 100 percent pure and therapeutic grade. The company’s oils are lab-tested for purity and come with a risk-free, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
- How to use: Enjoy a relaxing lavender bath by combining several drops of lavender oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil, such as almond oil or jojoba oil, or an unscented bath gel. Stir the mixture into warm bathwater just before entering.
- Best used for: In addition to helping lower anxiety, you can also use lavender oil for many other things. Some examples include as part of a skincare regimen to help with conditions like eczema, acne, and burns. It may also help ease muscle pain and headache pain.
- Lavender oil works well in bathwater or for massages.
- Batch-specific, third-party GC/MS reports are available for this oil.
- The company offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
- Some negative reviews noted that the scent is unpleasant.
Jasmine oil has a gorgeous floral scent and is often used in perfumes and other cosmetic products. You may also see jasmine used as a base for various types of teas. According to a 2013 study, inhaling jasmine oil can promote a sense of well-being and romance.
Unlike some other essential oils used for anxiety, jasmine oil is thought to calm the nervous system without causing sleepiness. In fact, it can actually have a stimulant effect in some individuals.
We like the oil from Rainbow Abby because it’s 100 percent pure jasmine oil with no additives or fillers.
- How to use: You can inhale jasmine oil directly from the bottle, by adding a few drops onto a tissue and inhaling, or by placing the tissue in your pillowcase as you sleep. You can also allow the scent to fill the room through a diffuser.
- Best used for: Jasmine can be used to help regulate your mood. It may also be used as an aphrodisiac.
- Jasmine oil has a pleasing fragrance.
- It has a calming, but not sedative, effect.
- The Rainbow Abby oil has no additives or fillers.
- It may have a stimulant effect in some people.
Sweet basil essential oil comes from the same herb that you use to make marinara sauce. It has a crisp, herbal scent.
In aromatherapy, sweet basil is thought to help calm the mind and relieve stress. Research into using sweet basil for anxiety is rather limited, with many studies focusing on animal models.
According to a
Healing Solutions sweet basil oil is 100 percent pure. If you don’t love it, the company offers a money-back guarantee.
- How to use: Add several drops of sweet basil oil to a room diffuser or inhale through an inhaler tube.
- Best used for: Sweet basil oil may be used for digestive upset, skin care, and pain or inflammation.
- Oils are lab-tested for purity, with results available to the public.
- Healing Solutions offers a money-back guarantee.
- This oil was found to help relieve anxiety in mice in one study.
- Most studies about sweet basil oil for anxiety are limited to rodents, so it’s not clear whether people will experience the same benefits.
Chamomile oil comes from the daisy-like flowers of the chamomile plant. It’s well known for its relaxing and sedating properties and pleasant scent. In fact, you may often see it as an ingredient in herbal teas that aim to promote peaceful sleep.
Researchers found that chamomile supplementation reduced the symptoms of mild to moderate GAD. However, it did not reduce the rate of relapse of anxiety symptoms.
The chamomile oil from Rainbow Abby is therapeutic-grade quality with no synthetic ingredients.
- How to use: Massage diluted chamomile oil into your skin or add it to a warm bath. It’s important to note that chamomile oil is strong, and a little can go a long way.
- Best used for: Chamomile oil can also be used to help with digestive upset, healing of wounds or ulcers, and easing pain and inflammation.
- Chamomile is well known for its relaxing, sedating properties.
- The company offers certificates of analysis for purity and safety.
- This oil is vegan-friendly and not tested on animals.
- The effects of chamomile can be strong.
Rose essential oil is extracted from rose petals. Roses have an enchanting sweet, floral scent known to relax the senses.
A small 2011 study looked at the effects of self-massage with a mix of essential oils, including rose oil, on menstrual pain and anxiety. It found that aromatherapy self-massage of the abdomen with the essential oil mixture was associated with lower levels of pain and anxiety.
The rose oil from Plant Therapy is undiluted with therapeutic-grade quality. Lab reports are available upon request.
- How to use: Soak your feet in a basin filled with warm water and diluted rose essential oil. You can also add rose oil to your favorite non-scented moisturizer or shea butter and massage into skin.
- Best used for: Rose oil may help lift mood or ease the symptoms of PMS, such as menstrual cramps. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and may help with wound healing. Some may choose to use it as an aphrodisiac.
- The sweet fragrance of rose may help relax the senses.
- Rose oil can be put in bathwater or mixed with lotions.
- This is a high quality, undiluted oil, with lab reports available.
- This oil has a higher price point.
- To access lab reports, you’ll have to contact the company.
Vetiver may be less known than other essential oils, but it’s not less effective. You may see it referred to as khus oil. Vetiver oil comes from the grassy vetiver plant that’s native to India. It has a sweet, earthy scent.
Vetiver oil can help calm the nervous system and can help with sleep. As such, it may also help alleviate feelings of stress or anxiety.
Like other essential oils we’ve discussed, research into vetiver and anxiety in humans is currently limited. However, there are studies in animals that show that it can help reduce anxiety.
According to a
We like that the vetiver oil from Edens Garden is therapeutic grade and undiluted. Plus, the company prioritizes safety, quality, and education.
- How to use: Enjoy a relaxing massage with diluted vetiver oil or add it to a diffuser.
- Best used for: Vetiver oil may be helpful for boosting immunity and promoting skin health. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
- It’s thought to benefit the nervous system, which can be helpful for symptoms of anxiety.
- Edens Garden batch-tests its oils for purity and safety, with reports available to customers.
- Research is limited to rodent studies.
- It’s a viscous oil, so it may take time to flow out of the dropper.
Ylang ylang comes from the yellow flowers of the tropical Cananga tree. It has a sweet fruity or floral scent.
Ylang ylang can be used in aromatherapy to help lift an individual’s mood. It can also have a calming effect and may help lower blood pressure.
Overall, research into using ylang ylang for anxiety is limited. According to a 2006 study involving nurses, inhaling a blend of ylang ylang, lavender, and bergamot lowered stress and anxiety levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and serum cortisol.
We like the ylang ylang oil from Plant Therapy because it’s undiluted and 100 percent pure.
- How to use: Apply diluted ylang ylang to your skin, add to a room diffuser, or inhale directly.
- Best used for: Ylang ylang can be used for its antidepressant properties. Some people may also use it as an aphrodisiac.
- This oil may have a calming effect, which may help reduce blood pressure.
- It’s available in multiple sizes.
- Plant Therapy oils are third-party tested for purity.
- Research on the effectiveness of ylang ylang essential oil is limited.
Frankincense oil is made from the resin of the Boswellia tree. It has a musky, sweet aroma.
Few studies on frankincense oil and anxiety have been carried out in humans. A
The frankincense oil from Cliganic is USDA-certified organic and contains no additives or fillers. Plus, the company offers a money-back guarantee.
- How to use: Massage diluted frankincense oil onto your hands or feet. You can also add frankincense to a diffuser.
- Best used for: Frankincense essential oil may help ease inflammation due to arthritis and may also help with symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
- Some research indicates frankincense oil may be helpful for stress management.
- This oil is USDA certified organic.
- The company offers a money-back guarantee.
- Research on the effects of frankincense oil is limited to rodent studies.
Clary sage is different from the common herb used to make stuffing at Thanksgiving. It has a woody, herbal odor. The essential oil is derived from the leaves of the plant, which have a purple tint to them.
According to a 2015 systematic review, clary sage can help ease tension and help manage cortisol levels in women. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. High cortisol levels may increase your risk for anxiety and depression.
We like the clary sage essential oil from Aura Cacia because of the company’s commitments to fair trade and eco-friendly practices. Plus, its oils are lab-tested, vegan, and cruelty-free.
- How to use: Inhale clary sage oil directly when you feel anxious or massage the diluted oil into your skin.
- Best used for: Due to its calming abilities, clary sage oil is often used as an aphrodisiac. You can also use clary sage to help ease menstrual and muscle cramps. It may even act as an antidepressant.
- There’s evidence that clary sage can help ease tension, which may help relieve symptoms of anxiety.
- This oil is GC/MS tested for purity.
- Aura Cacia supports fair trade and eco-friendly practices.
- This oil is higher priced compared with many of the other options on our list.
Musky patchouli is used in Ayurvedic medicine to address a variety of conditions, including stress and anxiety. It’s made from the leaves and stems of the patchouli plant, which is a type of herb.
Patchouli can be used on its own but is often combined with other essential oils such as lavender. It’s thought to promote calmness and relaxation, though most evidence is anecdotal.
A 2020 study assessed the effects of inhaled patchouli oil on emergency room nurses. Compared to the control group, nurses who inhaled the patchouli oil reported lower levels of stress and higher levels of compassion.
We like this oil because it’s USDA-certified organic and ultra-concentrated, so a little bit goes a long way.
- How to use: To relieve anxiety, inhale patchouli oil directly or add it diluted to a warm bath or room diffuser.
- Best used for: Patchouli can be used to help with depression. It may also have anti-inflammatory properties, help ease pain, and help to promote skin health.
- There is evidence that patchouli may help lower stress.
- This oil is USDA certified organic and steam-distilled with no additives.
- It’s highly concentrated, so a little will go a long way.
- Some reviewers found the scent unpleasant.
Geranium oil is distilled from the geranium plant and has a sweet, floral scent. It’s often used as a scent in soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes.
This essential oil has sedative properties. Due to this, it may be used to help reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.
According to a
The geranium oil from Majestic Pure is steam-distilled, unfiltered, and undiluted.
- How to use: Apply a few drops of geranium oil to a cotton ball and waft under your nose a few times.
- Best used for: Geranium oil can also be used on the skin to help address inflammation, eczema, and skin aging. You can also use geranium oil to help with nerve pain and conditions associated with diabetes.
- This oil comes in a generous size bottle.
- Majestic Pure extracts its oil via steam, with no additives.
- It’s a well-reviewed oil; customers generally like the brand.
- One fluid ounce may be too much for some people.
Lemon balm has a fresh, uplifting aroma that smells like lemons. Although it has the word “lemon” in its name, it actually comes from an herb. It also goes by the name Melissa. In aromatherapy, it has a soothing, restorative effect.
Most success stories on inhaling lemon balm for anxiety are anecdotal. But according to a
The lemon balm oil from Artizen is 100 percent pure, with no dilution or additives. It’s also reasonably priced at less than $10 for one fluid ounce.
- How to use: Lemon balm is a great oil to add to a diffuser for a fresh scent that covers an entire room. You can also inhale it directly.
- Best used for: Lemon balm may boost cognitive function and help with digestive upset.
- In aromatherapy, lemon balm is considered soothing and restorative.
- This oil comes in a large bottle.
- It’s considered moderately priced.
- Studies about its effectiveness for anxiety are limited.
- One fluid ounce may be more than some people prefer.
Sweet marjoram is a type of herb that’s native to the Mediterranean and is now grown in many parts of the world. The essential oil is extracted from the flowers of the plant.
Sweet marjoram is also used to ease headaches, a common symptom of anxiety. Despite the lack of scientific evidence, it’s a go-to folk remedy for many aromatherapists.
Edens Garden prioritizes safety and quality in its products. This oil is 100 percent pure and undiluted.
- How to use: Dilute marjoram with a carrier oil (another oil, like jojoba or coconut, that is used to dilute the essential oil before you put it on your skin) and rub into your temples, using caution to prevent the oil from dripping into your eyes. You may also dilute and apply to your wrists or add to a diffuser.
- Best used for: In addition to headache, sweet marjoram oil can be used for aches and pains, digestive upset, and asthma.
- Marjoram is a common remedy among aromatherapists for symptoms of anxiety and nerves.
- Edens Garden batch-tests all its oils for safety and purity.
- This oil may help soothe headaches, a common symptom of anxiety.
- It’s priced higher compared with many of the other oils on our list.
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It’s important to shop carefully for essential oils, as there may be potential risks with the use of these substances. You’ll want to consider an oil’s chemical composition and purity, as well as how you plan to use it.
Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Look for therapeutic-grade oils that are undiluted, with no fillers or additives. That means labeling that specifies “100 percent pure essential oil.” But don’t just go by companies that claim their oils are therapeutic or 100 percent pure. Double check the ingredient list, too — pure oils should only have one ingredient.
- Check if the manufacturer is transparent. Are they forthcoming about production methods and sourcing?
- Look at the packaging. Essential oils should come in dark glass bottles with a tight seal to preserve their integrity.
Dilutions are different for adults and for children:
- For adults: Every 15 drops of essential oil should be diluted with 1 ounce of carrier oil.
- For children: The mixture is much more diluted with a ratio of 3 to 6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil. Use of essential oils in children should always be under the supervision of their doctor.
Because essential oils may cause an allergic reaction when used topically, it’s important to do a patch test on a small area of skin before use. To do this:
- Place a few drops of diluted essential oil on your wrist or elbow.
- Cover the spot with a bandage.
- Check the area in 24 hours. If you experience any redness, rash, or itching, the oil isn’t safe for you to use on your skin.
When inhaling essential oils, make sure that the room you’re in is well ventilated. This can help prevent potential side effects like respiratory irritation or headaches.
Essential oils are not safe for everyone.
Talk with your doctor before using essential oils if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have an underlying medical condition. Some are not safe for children. Others should not be inhaled by pets, as they can even be toxic. You should also always consult your doctor, pediatrician, and veterinarian (when applicable) before using essential oils.
If you’re exploring ways to manage anxiety, it’s a good idea to see your healthcare provider, too. It’s particularly important to seek professional care if your symptoms of anxiety are impacting your ability to sleep or handle day-to-day responsibilities.
Where should you apply essential oils for anxiety?
In most cases, you can dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil and dab it on pulse points, like the inner wrists, behind the ears, on the ankles, over the heart, or to the temples. If you choose to apply it to your temples, take care to avoid having the oil drip into your eyes.
Do doctors recommend the use of essential oils for anxiety?
Generally speaking, doctors don’t recommend essential oils for anxiety. That’s because there haven’t been rigorous scientific studies that demonstrate their efficacy. At this time, most of the evidence for anxiety-relieving benefits comes from animal studies or small-scale trials.
What are the side effects of using essential oils?
If you enjoy essential oils safely, side effects are minimal. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for safely diluting or diffusing an oil.
It’s important to never ingest essential oils or apply them directly to the skin without a carrier oil. Doing so can cause irritation or burns. Prolonged exposure to essential oils without adequate ventilation may cause headaches or irritation to the eyes and mucous membranes.
Although research has shown that aromatherapy may help relieve anxiety, it’s no substitute for seeing a healthcare professional.
If you have a stressful day at work or you’re anxious because you have an important appointment, an aromatherapy session or two might be just what you need.
If you’re looking to find information on specific essential oils for anxiety or you need more information on aromatherapy in general, you can talk with a certified aromatherapist.
But if you experience chronic anxiety that interferes with daily activities, call a doctor or mental health professional. They can work with you to develop a management plan tailored to your needs.