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Are essential oils a good method for treating symptoms of anxiety?

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Depression can affect the way you feel, how you think, and the way you act. Although it’s a mood disorder, depression can cause both physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms can vary depending on the person, but they can often include:

  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • sadness
  • despair
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping

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.

People use essential oils as complementary treatments for many conditions, including depression and the others listed above, as well as their respective symptoms.

It’s important to note that essential oils aren’t a cure for depression. They’re a drug-free option that may help relieve some of your symptoms and help you manage the condition. In most cases, with proper and careful use, essential oils are safe to use.

Although dozens of essential oils are on the market, research on the potential benefits, risks, and efficacy is often limited.

According to a review on aromatherapy and depression, essential oils were shown to be an effective option for the relief of depressive symptoms.

While recent studies have shown promise as far as the benefits of aromatherapy when treating depression, research is limited due to the quality of the studies and the differences in how they were conducted.

A more recent study, however, suggests that certain essential oils can have an anxiolytic, or anxiety reducing effect, which increases production of serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood, sleep, and other important body functions.

These findings show promise regarding how essential oils can ease symptoms of depression. However, more thorough research is needed to provide a conclusive picture.

We selected the best essential oils for depression using the following criteria:

  • Vetting. Every product on our list has been vetted to ensure that they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards. You can read more about our vetting process here.
  • Ingredients. The oils we chose are pure formulations with no fillers.
  • Research-backed. We chose oils that have been shown by scientific research to ease symptoms of depression.
  • Customer reviews. We took into account what users said about various oils and chose ones that received mostly positive reviews.
  • Affordability. We selected oils from brands that may be more financially accessible for people.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $5
  • $$ = $5–$10
  • $$$ = over $10

Best essential oil for relaxation

Gya Labs Lavender Essential Oil

  • Price: $$
  • Best used for: may help with lowering anxiety, decreasing stress, improving mood, and promoting relaxation
  • Additional benefits: relief from insomnia, anxiety, hair loss, headaches, and chemotherapy side effects as well skin issues like acne, burns, eczema, dry skin, and wound healing
  • Possible side effects: potential skin reactions if your skin is sensitive to topical products, as well as intestinal cramping and nausea if consumed directly (which is not advised)

The floral yet earthy scent of lavender oil is often valued for its calming effects. Research suggests that lavender aromatherapy may help:

  • relieve anxiety
  • decrease stress
  • improve mood
  • promote relaxation

Lavender oil has also been studied and shown to have effects on postpartum depression. Researchers concluded that stress, anxiety, and depression were significantly lower in a group of patients who inhaled lavender essential oil over a 4-week period.

Best essential oil for stress relief

Gya Labs Ginger Essential Oil

  • Price: $$
  • Best used for: may be useful in helping lower symptoms that accompany depression and stress
  • Additional benefits: relief from nausea, arthritis, digestive upset, colds, and migraines
  • Possible side effects: potential skin reactions if your skin is sensitive to topical products

According to a 2011 animal study, ginger may protect the brain from stress-related damage. Researchers found that stress-challenged rats that received ginger extract experienced protection from certain brain damage.

Another animal study also showed that ginger may be helpful in reducing anxiety and anxiety symptoms.

Best essential oil for anxiety relief

Cliganic Organic Bergamot Essential Oil

  • Price: $$
  • Best used for: may help treat symptoms of anxiety, which can also be a side effect of ongoing depression
  • Additional benefits: relief from acne, pain and inflammation, food poisoning, and stress
  • Possible side effects: photosensitivity if skin is exposed to sunlight post-application

The citrus scent of bergamot oil is known for being both uplifting and calming.

According to a 2013 study, bergamot essential oil significantly reduced anxiety in patients awaiting outpatient surgery.

Although depression and anxiety are different disorders, they often happen at the same time. Anxiety is also a possible complication of depression.

It’s unclear how bergamot eases apprehension. It may help reduce the release of stress hormones during stressful situations.

Other oils

Studies have shown that both ylang-ylang oil and rose oil have calming and relaxing effects. The oils can also help regulate what are called “autonomic functions,” such as your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Although other essential oils are thought to relieve symptoms of depression, supporting evidence is mostly anecdotal. Some of these oils are:

  • chamomile
  • sweet orange
  • grapefruit
  • neroli
  • frankincense
  • jasmine
  • sandalwood

Gya Labs Lavender Essential OilGya Labs Ginger Essential OilCliganic Organic Bergamot Essential Oil
What it’s best forcalming, decreasing stress, improving mood, aiding relaxinglowering stress and other depression symptomstreating anxiety symptoms
Customer rating4.54.54.6
Price$$$$$$

These essential oils are primarily recognized for their aromatic effects on depression and its symptoms. Whether you choose to inhale the scent directly or allow it to disperse into the area is up to you. You should still be able to benefit from its effects either way.

Here are the most common methods for scent inhalation:

  • Inhale the scent directly from the oil’s bottle or inhaler tube.
  • Dab a few drops of the essential oil onto a cotton ball and inhale directly.
  • Add several drops of the oil to a diffuser and inhale indirectly.
  • Create an aromatherapy bath by adding several drops of essential oil diluted with honey, milk, or a carrier oil to your bathwater.
  • Enjoy an aromatherapy massage by adding a few drops of the essential oil to your favorite massage oil.

Combining essential oils may also help depression, according to a 2008 study.

MR KB 6/10/22 OK to use source from 2008 or too old?

Fifty-eight hospitalized hospice patients with terminal cancer received either a hand massage with general massage oil or aromatherapy massage oil on 7 consecutive days.

The aromatherapy oil was made with frankincense, lavender, and bergamot essential oils. People who received the aromatherapy massage experienced significantly less pain and depression.

People with respiratory problems, pregnant people, and children shouldn’t use essential oils unless under the supervision of a doctor or trained aromatherapist.

All essential oils may cause an allergic reaction, so you should never apply them to your skin undiluted. If you do plan to apply an essential oil blend to your skin, you should add 1 ounce of a carrier oil to every 3 to 6 drops of essential oil. Common carrier oils include:

  • sweet almond oil
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • jojoba oil

You should also do a skin patch test before large applications. Dab a small amount of your essential and carrier oil mix to a small patch of skin at least 24 hours before to your planned application. This will allow you to see if the mix will cause a skin reaction.

Do not ingest essential oils.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate essential oils. Only buy oils from a reputable manufacturer. If possible, ask a trained aromatherapist for a recommendation.

You shouldn’t replace your current treatment plan for depression with essential oils, and you shouldn’t add them into your routine without your doctor’s approval.

Essential oils are only meant to serve as a complementary treatment to your current regimen.

Conventional treatments for depression include:

  • prescription antidepressants
  • psychotherapy, including one-on-one and group sessions
  • inpatient psychiatric treatment for severe cases of depression
  • electroconvulsive therapy for people who aren’t responding to medication, can’t take antidepressants, or are at high risk for suicide
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation for people who don’t respond to antidepressants

Untreated or mismanaged depression may lead to:

  • physical pain
  • anxiety disorders
  • suicidal thoughts
  • substance use disorder

Is aromatherapy good for depression?

Certain essential oils can help relieve some symptoms of depression by providing relaxing and calming effects.

What oils increase serotonin?

Research has shown that certain essential oils can produce an anxiolytic, anxiety-reducing effect, and increase the body’s production of serotonin. These oils include lavender, rosemary, sweet orange, and chamomile.

Can essential oils replace anti-depressants?

Generally, no. You should talk with your doctor prior to using essential oils for depression, especially if your symptoms affect your quality of life or your ability to perform everyday activities. While essential oils can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, they’re not a replacement for medication.

If you’re experiencing depression, speak with your doctor about your symptoms. They can work with you to develop the best treatment plan for you. Once your treatment plan has been set, do your best to follow it. Missing appointments or medications may cause your symptoms to return or cause symptoms similar to withdrawal.

If you’re interested in using essential oils, speak with your doctor or a trained aromatherapist. They can help you determine the best way to incorporate essential oils as a complement to your current treatment plan.