Top 17 Best Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety - And How to Use Them

by Up Nature February 20, 2017 0 Comments

Top 17 Best Essential Oils for Stress and Anxiety - And How to Use Them

Anxious or feeling low?

If you had a rough day or if you suffer from stress day in and day out, having a natural go-to solution, like an essential oil on hand, can help to relieve stress symptoms (without the side-effect of drugs) and do wonders for calming your anxiety and relaxing the mind.

Essential oils for stress and anxiety - Why do they work so well?

Put simply, essential oils have aromatic, fragrant molecules that can actually pass right through the blood/brain barrier, having a direct effect on the areas of our brain in charge of controlling feelings of stress and anxiety and even panic and depression.

Skeptical if essential oils really work? A study conducted in Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany suggested that, "essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function."

Furthermore, what's interesting is that essential oils can be both calming and stimulating. The same oil can have a different "effect" depending on what is required of it. So a restless person may find that they feel calm after using a particular oil, while another individual who is feeling low and depressed may get an uplifting and invigorating effect using the same oil. This is why some essential oils are referred to as "adaptogens" because they can literally "adapt" to the needs of the person using the oil.

This is also why essential oils work so well for stress as they have the unique ability to adapt to the different types and levels of stress different individuals battle with.

Here are top FIVE sure-fire ways to instantly harness the medicinal powers of essential oils for relieving stress:

  1. Inhale directly: Rub 1-2 drops in cupped palms and take a long, deep breath
  2. Rub directly: Rub 1-2 drops of oil into your temples, wrists or anywhere, for full body relaxation
  3. Use on-the-go: Put a few drops on a handkerchief, cotton pad or on a scarf and inhale as needed. You'll get instant calming support throughout your day.
  4. Add to your shower: Immerse yourself in an essential oil steam by adding a couple of drops in your shower. Remember to plug or cover the drain and inhale deeply.
  5. Use a diffuser: To get long-lasting benefit, use a diffuser (great for everyone at home - adults, kids and pets!)

Here's our list of top 17 essential oils for stress and anxiety (and how to use them):

1. Lavender Essential Oil

lavender essential oil for stressLavender is perhaps one of the best and most commonly used "adaptogens" today - meaning it can adapt to any mood. A perfect pick-me-up, it's fresh and floral aroma is relaxing and calming.  Lavender essential oil is excellent for improving mental concentration, reducing stress, calming agitation and alleviating insomnia.

When it comes to anxiety, research suggests that applying essential oils topically might perhaps be one of the most effective ways to experience the full benefits. In the case of lavender essential oil, a study showed that the medicinal properties of lavender entered the blood stream in as little as five minutes of rubbing the oil on to the skin.

How to use lavender essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale lavender oil directly for an immediate calming effect

Simply rub 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your palms and take a deep breath. The scent enters the amygdala, the center for emotions, and provides a feeling of instant relaxation. Great for use in the office, while traveling or in crowded areas!

If you'd rather not apply the oil directly, put 1-2 drops in a handkerchief or a cotton pad and inhale.

2.  Relieve stress headaches

Rub 1-2 drops of lavender oil into your temples to ease a tension headache. In fact for full body relaxation you can rub 1-2 drops on the wrists or the feet as well.

3. Lavender tea for stress relief

Making a fragrant lavender herbal tea at the end of a long day, can be a great way to unwind. Sip and whiff at the same time!

4. Lavender stress relief essential oil blend - Use as a body massage oil/moisturizer

  • 6 drops Clary Sage Oil
  • 2 drops Lemon Oil
  • 3 drops Lavender Oil
  • 6 tsp of a carrier oil - such as fractionated coconut oil (which is a liquid at room temperature and does not stain), jojoba or moringa oil. Moringa oil is great for dry skin so this recipe also makes an excellent moisturizer!

2. Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil

cinnamon essential oil for stressCinnamon leaf oil has anti-inflammatory properties and works wonders for soothing aching muscles and joints after a long stressful day. It can also help to reduce drowsiness and give you an instant energy boost if you're feeling exhausted - both physically and mentally.

How to use cinnamon leaf oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale Directly
: Inhale directly by rubbing onto the palms or putting a 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief. The spicy aroma is sure to invigorate your senses!

2. Cinnamon Leaf stress relief essential oil blend - Use as a full body massage oil and an insect repellent:

  • 4 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil
  • 6 drops orange essential oil
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - such as coconut oil. A study suggests that cinnamon oil is a good insect repellant. This recipe is great to relieve stress but combined with another carrier oil such us tamanu oil that also helps combat insect bites, can be great to help repel mosquitoes and bug bites!

You can also put a few drops of the blend in your diffuser and let the scent waft through the entire house.

3. Cedarwood Essential Oil

cedarwood essential oil for stressCedarwood oil is great at relieving stress and tension and has a calming effect on the mind. Biologically, the aroma of cedarwood promotes the release of serotonin, responsible for stabilizing moods. Cedarwood essential oil can also act as a natural sedative, as serotonin is converted to melatonin - which helps control and regulate sleep patterns and brings a feeling of calmness.

How to use cedarwood essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale Directly: Inhale directly from the bottle or by rubbing onto the palms or putting 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief.

2. Rub Directly: Rub 1-2 drops right above your eyebrows or at the brain stem (right where the neck joins the head) to relieve tension.

Alternatively, add a few drops in the diffuser and let it spread through the air an hour or so before you go to bed to set the mood for a goodnight's rest.

4. Lime Essential Oil

lime essential oil for stressLime essential oil, as you perhaps guessed, smells just like the real thing - a fresh and tart lime. It works well to refresh and uplift the mood, and invigorate without being too overly powerful.  It can work wonders for those suffering from the stress of fatigue, grief and a heavy heart - and help to stimulate a person to embrace the positivity in life.

How to use lime oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Use in a diffuser: Lime essential oil is perhaps best used in a diffuser to cleanse the air and also refresh the mood. Great for high-stress situations at work or at home.

2. Inhale Directly: Need to get some urgent work done but just can't concentrate? Directly inhale lime oil for an instant lift.

3. Lime stress relief essential oil blend (use as a full body massage oil):

  • 4 drops lime essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 drops mandarin/orange essential oil
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - a neutral oil like jojoba oil or fractionated coconut oil (remains a liquid at room temperature), that balances well with the freshness of lime oil works best.

5. Grapefruit Essential Oil

grapefruit essential oil for stressThe aroma of a fresh fruit can have an amazing effect! Similar to lime, grapefruit also belongs to the citrus family and its aroma is uplifting, refreshing and clarifying. A great stress buster - grapefruit essential oil is excellent for alleviating mental fatigue, depression and stress induced headaches. An instant whiff can give you the ready-to-go feeling you need to get on with your day.

How to use grapefruit essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Use in a diffuser: Perhaps best used in a diffuser, you will be blown away by how it makes you feel after a long day at work.

2. Apply Topically: Add a few drops to a cotton pad along with a dab of a carrier oil such as jojoba or grapeseed oil (a light oil that is absorbed quickly into the skin) and rub the blend onto your wrists and neck.

3. Add to your shower: Envelope your senses by adding a few drops in your shower and covering the drain. Inhale deeply to get the full medicinal benefits.

4. Grapefruit stress relief essential oil blend Air Freshener:

  • Clean 4 oz. fine-mist spray bottle
  • 6 tablespoons of distilled water
  • 20 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil

Fill the bottle with the distilled water and add the essential oils. Shake, spray and breathe!

6. Eucalyptus Essential Oil

eucalyptus essential oil for stress reliefWant to feel refreshed instantly? Let the cooling effect of eucalyptus oil work its magic. With its strong minty aroma, eucalyptus oil is great for alleviating stress, boosting energy and mitigating mental fatigue. Eucalyptus oil is highly effective and works wonders when dealing with a cold, congestion and the flu. If you're under the weather or simply feeling sluggish and mentally exhausted, use this powerful essential oil to rejuvenate and stimulate the mind and body!

How to use eucalyptus essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Add to your shower: Add a few drops in your shower and cover the drain. Inhale deeply to get the full medicinal benefits. Works especially well to clear congestion and uplift the mood at the same time!

2. Apply topically: Rub in a few drops directly in your temples, wrists, feet and aching muscles and let the cooling, tingling effect calm your muscles after a tiring day. Alternatively, rub onto your chest and back to relieve a cold.

3. Eucalyptus stress relief essential oil blend Air Freshener:

Fill the bottle with the distilled water and add the essential oil. Shake and spray your pillow for a long-lasting effect, and relaxed sleep all night long.

7. Rose Essential Oil

rose essential oil for stressA slight dab is all you need to feel the powerful effects of rose essential oil - great for stimulating the mind and promoting a sense of peace, tranquility and well-being. Amongst all the essential oils it has the highest vibrational frequency at 320 MHz. To compare, lavender is approx. 118 MHz, a healthy person vibrates in the range of 62 to 68 MHz and so on. Rose oil is great for those battling with depression. It helps to boost self-esteem and promotes feelings of joy and hope.

How to use rose oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale Directly: Inhale directly from the bottle or by rubbing onto the palms or putting 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief.

2. Rub Directly: Rub 1-2 drops on your wrists and your neck for an instant pick-me-up.

Alternatively, add a few drops in the diffuser and let it spread through the air to stimulate the senses and invoke feelings of joy and happiness.

8. Orange Essential Oil

orange essential oil for stressAnother strong citrus fruit with a powerful, uplifting fragrance, orange oil has proven stress-relieving benefits. In fact a study conducted at Mei University in Japan concluded that patients taking orange oil were significantly able to reduce their antidepressant medicine intake. 

How to use orange essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Use in a diffuser: Orange essential oil is perhaps best used in a diffuser to uplift and refresh the mood. Great for boosting energy and improving concentration.

2. Inhale Directly: Directly inhale orange oil to awaken the senses and get an instant lift.

3. Orange stress relief essential oil blend (use as a full body massage oil):

  • 6 drops orange essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - a neutral oil like jojoba oil or fractionated coconut oil (remains a liquid at room temperature), that balances well with the strong aroma of orange oil works best.

9. Sandalwood Essential Oil

sandalwood essential oil for stressLooking for increased mental clarity and focus? When you're dealing with the challenging demands of the daily grind, having a moment of harmony and peace is essential for your overall well-being and mental health. Sandalwood oil, with its amazing woody aroma, has a powerful therapeutic effect on the brain's limbic system and is an excellent emotional balancer.

How to use sandalwood oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale directly: Inhale directly from the bottle or by rubbing onto the palms or putting 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief. Great for using before a yoga class or prayer and meditation time to set the mood.

2. Apply topically: Rub a couple of drops directly on the wrists and ankles to get through a stressful day.

3. Sandalwood stress relief essential oil blend (use as a full body massage oil):

  • 6 drops sandalwood essential oil
  • 2 drops rose essential oil
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - such as cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or sweet almond oil, which is laden with protein, absorbs quickly and most importantly is odorless, enhancing the incredible woody fragrance of sandalwood oil.

10. Ylang ylang Essential Oil

ylang ylang essential oil for stressAnother effective "adaptogen," ylang ylang essential oil can be both stimulating or calming depending on what the person using it is feeling. It is especially effective when dealing with anger-induced stress and can bring a feeling of immediate calm and peace.

How to use ylang ylang oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Apply topically: Rub a couple of drops directly on the wrists, neck, feet and back (trigger points) to reduce feelings of agitation.

2. Use in a diffuser: Ylang ylang essential oil also works really well in a diffuser and is said to have aphrodisiac properties - great for setting the mood!

3. Ylang ylang stress relief essential oil diffuser blend:

  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop clary sage essential oil
  • 1 drop ylang ylang essential oil

Add 4 tsp carrier oil (such as coconut, grapeseed or olive oil to the above recipe to use as a massage blend).

11. Clary Sage Essential Oil

clary sage essential oil for stressClary sage essential oil not only has a wonderful aroma, but in a study conducted on rats has shown to positively influence the levels of dopamine (the feel happy chemical) in the brain and body.

A natural antidepressant, clary sage oil is one of the best remedies for anxiety, that has no side-effects. Excellent for uplifting the mood, it helps to ease feelings of anxiety by calming the mind, while boosting self-esteem and confidence.

How to use clary sage essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale directly: Inhale directly from the bottle or put 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief.

2. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse 6 drops of clary sage oil with 2 drops of orange oil when you're feeling down, and feel the difference.

3. Add to your shower: Add a few drops of clary sage oil in your shower and cover the drain. Inhale deeply to bust feelings of stress and boost your mood.

12. Jasmine Essential Oil

jasmine essential oil for stressDerived from the jasmine flower, recent research suggests that Jasmine oil is as good as "valium" at calming the nerves and overcoming stress. Traditionally, jasmine oil has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for anxiety, insomnia, low libido and depression and today's research proves that our ancestors knew what they were doing.

Jasmine oil not only alleviates feelings of depression but it stimulates the mind and helps uplift the mood and produce feelings of confidence and optimism.

How to use jasmine oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale directly: Inhale directly from the bottle or by putting 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief.

2. Apply topically: Rub a couple of drops directly on the wrists and ankles to subdue feelings of anxiousness.

3. Jasmine stress relief essential oil diffuser blend:

  • 3 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 1 drop jasmine essential oil
  • 1 drop ylang ylang essential oil

Add 4 tsp carrier oil (such as coconut, grapeseed or olive oil to the above recipe to use as a massage blend).

13. Frankincense Essential Oil

frankincense essential oil for stressRich in sesquiterpenes, molecular structures that can travel through the blood-brain barrier, frankincense essential oil can help alleviate the adverse effects of both anxiety and depression.

Sourced from a tree native to Somalia in Africa, frankincense is derived from the resin of the Boswellias carterri/sacara tree, which is known to grow in unfavorable, barren and arid conditions. Commonly associated with many different faiths, frankincense is believed to increase intuition and spirituality.

How to use frankincense oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of frankincense oil in the air to experience complete relaxation after a long, tiring day.

2. Add to your shower: Add a few drops in a hot shower and cover the drain. Inhale deeply and let your stress melt away.

3. Frankincense stress relief essential oil massage blend:

  • 4 drops Frankincense
  • 4 drops Jasmine
  • 2 drops Lemon
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - such as jojoba or sweet almond oil, which has an odor-free scent making it pair well with the earthy and light fruity aroma of frankincense.

14. Lemongrass Essential Oil

lemongrass essential oil for stressThe aromatic, calming fragrance of lemongrass wafting through the air is enough to transport you to another world. That said, one of the best ways to use lemongrass oil to relieve anxiety, agitation, insomnia and stress is through aromatherapy.

A 2011 study suggested that mice were positively affected by the medicinal effects of lemongrass oil and experienced change in the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (a neurotransmitter that helps reduce stress), in the brain. Breathing in the fresh scent of lemongrass oil can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and promote a feeling of relaxation.

How to use lemongrass oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of lemongrass essential oil in the air and let the mild, fragrant scent refresh your senses

2. Inhale directly: Inhale directly from the bottle or rub 1-2 drops in your palms and cup to your face. You can also put 1-2 drops on your wrists or a handkerchief or on your pillow before you sleep.

3. Lemongrass stress relief essential oil massage blend:

  • 8 drops Lemongrass oil
  • 2 drops Lavender oil
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - such as jojoba oil or fractionated coconut oil (remains a liquid at room temperature), that balances well with the aromatic fragrance of lemongrass oil works best.

15. Peppermint Essential Oil

peppermint essential oil for stressYou might think peppermint oil is an excellent breath freshener, but it certainly does a lot more than that!  Peppermint oil contains menthol, a natural anesthetic that gives an amazing, cooling sensation (think of the refreshing taste of peppermint gum). An important point to note is that peppermint oil is a lot more concentrated than most essential oils so it is best used when diluted with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil or sweet almond oil.

With its uplifting energizing scent, peppermint oil keeps you alert, helps you concentrate and alleviates feelings of mental fatigue and restlessness.

How to use peppermint essential oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Use in a diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of peppermint essential oil in the air to enhance focus and boost mental concentration.

2. Inhale directly: Feeling drowsy at work? Inhale directly from the bottle or rub a drop under your nose for a quick pick-me-up.

3. Apply Topically: To alleviate mental and physical fatigue rub a few drops at the back of the neck and shoulders, for a cool, refreshing, invigorating feeling.

16. Copaiba Essential Oil

copaiba essential oil for stressSteam distilled from carefully selected gum resin tapped from Copaiba trees, copaiba essential oil has a sweet honey-like aroma, and the mild scent is enough to notably improve your day. Used for hundreds of years to uplift the mood, this unique fragrance can lighten a heavy mind and help ease feelings of stress and anxiety.

How to use copaiba oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Inhale Directly: Take a quick whiff of copaiba oil directly from the bottle. The pleasant aroma can do wonders for improving your mood.

2. Use in a Diffuser: Diffuse a few drops of copaiba oil or inhale it directly to experience emotional balance.

3. Copaiba stress relief essential oil massage blend:

  • 10 drops Copaiba essential oil
  • 4 tsp carrier oil - such as jojoba or sweet almond oil, that does not overpower the light, sweet aroma of copaiba oil.

Massage into the temples, back of the neck and shoulders and feet to relieve tension. Copaiba essential oil also works great to relieve stress caused by muscle and rheumatic pain.

17. Tea Tree Essential Oil

tea tree essential oil for stressAs one of the most versatile essential oils around, tea tree oil is usually steam distilled from the leaves and wood of the tea tree plant and is an effective stress reliever. Most popularly known for its dandruff and acne-fighting properties, tea tree oil works well in combination with other essential oils to calm the nerves.

How to use tea tree oil for stress and anxiety:

1. Add to your shower: Infuse the senses by adding a few drops of tea tree essential oil to your shower. Cover the drain and breathe in the goodness. Alternatively you can add a few drops of tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil in a hot bath along with a 1/4 cup of Epsom salt and soak your worries away.

2. Tea tree stress relief essential oil blend Air Freshener:

  • Clean 4 oz. fine-mist spray bottle
  • 6 tablespoons of distilled water
  • 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 6 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 4 drops Lavender Essential Oil

Fill the bottle with the distilled water and add the essential oils. Shake and spray your surroundings and let your stress melt away.

Side Effects and Warnings

Essential oils are natural but powerful. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to any oil so it's always best to try a little by doing a small skin patch test on your arm or leg (never your face or neck) to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction.

If you're pregnant or nursing, or on any kind of medication please check with your doctor before using essential oils.

What to Look for When Buying Essential Oils?

When buying essential oils make sure the bottle says 100% pure essential oil, and has the proper name of the species mentioned on the label of the bottle. Example for lavender: (Lavandula Hybrida Medicus). If you see the word 'fragrance' it almost always means there are other additives.

Ideally it's always best to buy essential oils from an organic source that are labeled as "Therapeutic grade," meaning they are free of toxins and chemicals and are unfiltered and undiluted.

Also beware of genetically modified ingredients and choose Non GMO essential oils.

Last Words

Any natural therapy that can help calm the mind and nerves can help to relieve stress and anxiety. There is no fixed recipe when it comes to essential oils and what might work for you might not work for someone else. Since we are all biochemically exclusive, it's best to experiment with a variety of essential oils, pay attention to your body, and find the "personal blends" that work most optimally for you.

Back to you! What’s your experience with using essential oils for stress and anxiety? What are your favorite blends? We'd love to hear what you have to say!


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