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Essential oils are oils taken from plants and distilled into a highly concentrated form. These oils may be taken from the leaves, flowers or blossoms, roots, or stems of a plant.

They have only started to become popular in the United States but have been used in other countries for thousands of years. Various essential oils are believed to have physical, emotional, and psychological healing properties.

The medical and scientific community hasn’t conducted enough research done to fully understand how and if essential oils can be used to help those with ADHD. However, many swear by them in their personal experiences.

You should always talk with your doctor before using any form of essential oils as they may have some drug interactions. You should only use essential oils as directed. Essential oils can have side effects, especially if used incorrectly.

Essential oils are believed to help ADHD when used in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Many of the essential oils mentioned for use with ADHD have a calming or relaxing effect. This calming effect may help those with ADHD modify some of their behavioral symptoms.

One study has shown that the aroma of some essential oils affects behavior through the endocrine system or the central nervous system. This effect may work by the properties of the oil traveling through the mucous lining of the nose into the bloodstream. However, more studies are needed to understand the effect fully.

ADHD is attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. As of 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated number of children diagnosed with ADHD is 6.1 million. Those with ADHD exhibit symptoms including:

  • inability to concentrate for long periods of time
  • hyperactivity
  • inability to manage impulsive behavior
  • inability to consider the consequences of some actions
  • forgetfulness
  • fidgeting
  • trouble getting along with others

ADHD is most common in children but can also occur in adults.

Important: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of essential oils for the treatment of ADHD or its symptoms, but many alternative medicine practitioners recommend essential oils to treat symptoms.

Oils can be applied in several ways. They can be applied diluted to the skin, such as through a massage, or they can be diffused to become a fragrance (aromatherapy). If you’re putting an essential oil onto your skin, dilute it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or vegetable oil. Do not take essential oils internally. Many are toxic.


Vetiver oil comes from a plant native to India called vetiver. It’s said to have a calming effect and may even help stimulate circulation and relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

According to a 2015 animal study where vetiver oil was used in aromatherapy for relaxation, vetiver has anti-anxiety abilities similar to the drug diazepam.

Although vetiver oil may potentially be beneficial for treating anxiety, there is little research done to prove that it works to improve ADHD. A small 2001 study shows that the oil may improve ADHD symptoms, but more research is needed.

  • Best used for: Vetiver oil is best used to treat symptoms of stress and anxiety, primarily for its calming effects.


Lavender has been used for hundreds of years to reduce anxiety. One study has shown that lavender aroma can affect our emotions.

The aroma of lavender can reduce anxiety and help calm people in stressful situations, which may help with ADHD symptoms. However, there is no scientific evidence to claim that this oil can help with ADHD directly.

  • Best used for: Lavender essential oil can be useful for lowering anxiety and helping you become more relaxed, which could potentially help with ADHD symptoms.


Orange oil is derived from the rinds of the sweet orange.

In the same study mentioned above, orange essential oil was also used and showed it could reduce anxiety and create calm in individuals in a stressful environment.

Again, although orange oil may be effective in reducing anxiety, there is not enough scientific backing on its use to treat ADHD symptoms.

Do not go in the sun if you apply any citrus oils to your skin.

  • Best used for: Orange oil is best used to calm anxiety and help regulate emotions in stressful situations.

Chamomile and ylang ylang

Chamomile oil comes from the flowers of the chamomile plant, while ylang ylang oil is derived from the flowers of the tropical Cananga tree.

The stress, anxiety, and depression felt by some with ADHD may be helped by ylang ylang and chamomile oils. Both of these essential oils may also have the ability to calm, reduce anxiety, and possibly even help with some forms of depression.

  • Best used for: Chamomile and ylang ylang oils can be used to help regulate emotions that cause stress, anxiety, and depression, which may be helpful if you are coping with ADHD symptoms.


Sandalwood oil comes from the wood and roots of Santalum album, which is also known as the East Indian sandalwood tree.

It has been shown in studies to have medicinal properties that help with inflammation and possibly even some cancers. However, some believe it can also help to relax, calm, and improve mental clarity in people with ADHD, though more research is needed for this to be scientifically proven.

  • Best used for: Sandalwood helps with inflammation and is also useful to help with relaxation, which could be beneficial if you are experiencing ADHD symptoms.


Frankincense oil has a musky, sweet smelling aroma and is made from the resin of the Boswellia tree.

Frankincense may be able to help people focus better and help with calmness. It may also help reduce some negative emotions that people with ADHD commonly experience.

Though frankincense may be helpful with calmness, more research is needed to prove whether the oil can directly improve ADHD symptoms.

  • Best used for: Frankincense oil is helpful for focus and aiding in relaxation and calmness.


Peppermint oil comes from the flowering part as well as the leaves of the peppermint plant.

It’s believed to have a soothing effect. It can help relax and calm the restlessness. People with sensitive skin should dilute this essential oil even more than other essential oils by adding more carrier oil or less essential oil.

  • Best used for: Though more research is needed to determine whether peppermint oil can directly reduce ADHD symptoms, it may help with some symptoms including restlessness.

ADHD is most common in children. The use of essential oils in children with ADHD needs more research. Children may be more sensitive to essential oils and significant caution must be used. Check with your child’s doctor before using essential oils.

Essential oils may be used in bathwater, with massage, topically on your skin, and with a diffuser. In treating the symptoms of ADHD, the oil is most commonly diffused into the air and gradually breathed in. You do not have to use a diffuser to get the same result. A few drops placed near, but not on your nose, like on your pillowcase, for example, can have the same effect.

The oil may first need to be mixed with a carrier oil. It’s important to note that essential oils may cause your skin to become painfully irritated if directly applied through massage or in a bath.

This irritation may be increased for children, so use topically with caution and under a healthcare professional’s guidance, or avoid using them topically at all on children.

Besides essential oils, you can try other alternative treatments for symptoms of ADHD at home. These are also still being studied to determine their full effectiveness in treating ADHD, but according to anecdotal evidence, many believe they can help with symptoms.

The CDC lists several at-home treatments that can help manage the symptoms of ADHD including:

  • exercise
  • nutrient-dense, balanced diet
  • additional sleep
  • limiting the use of electronic devices such as the TV

Other alternative treatments for ADHD may include:

As with all treatments, including at-home treatments, it’s important to talk with your doctor or your child’s doctor before starting any new treatment.

There has not been enough medical and scientific research performed to determine the effectiveness of essential oils in treating symptoms of ADHD. However, many people with ADHD believe they can help.

If you’re considering alternative treatments for ADHD, such as essential oils, consult your doctor first.