Aromatherapy predates the birth of Jesus. Ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Chinese and Indians have been using natural plant extracts for medicinal and spiritual purposes for millennia.
It turns out life isn’t any less stressful than it was when Ramesses II ruled the Nile valley.
Read on to find out how you can harness the benefits of essential oils to reduce anxiety brought about by modern life.
How do I use essential oil
Aromatherapy uses essential oils to improve wellbeing and physical health. They can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin in a variety of ways:
- Bathing oils or salts
- Body oils, creams or lotions
Each essential oil has unique healing properties, uses and effects. You can also combine them to turbo-charge their benefits.
Are essential oils safe?
Essential oils may be natural, but mother nature is powerful, and these oils are potent.
They can irritate the skin, if applied directly, so it’s important that you always use a carrier oil and do a skin patch test.
Carrier oils will act as a barrier against any irritation.
Some effective carrier oils include:
- Jojoba oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Argon oil
- Rosehip oil
The top 15 essential oils to reduce anxiety
Lavender is famous for its sleep inducing properties. Found in pillow sprays, lotions and bath oils, it can also be applied topically (note: all essential oils require a carrier oil it most circumstances – see above).
Use for: insomnia and overthinking.
Settling for the emotional heart, rose helps relieve panic attacks, grief and shock. Add a few drops to your bath or foot bath.
Use for: panic attacks, grief and shock.
Vetiver promotes tranquility and self-awareness. Useful when your nerves are getting the better of you and you are feeling jittery.
Use for: panic attacks and shock
4. Ylang Ylang
This uplifting and energizing essential oil encourages joy and optimism. Recognized for reducing heart palpitations, it is a moderate sedative, so it is also useful in treating sleeplessness.
Ylang ylang can be irritating to the skin, so it is best inhaled via a diffuser. Take care using this oil, if you have low blood pressure.
Use for: overcoming fear, depression and insomnia.
Bergamot has the dual qualities of being calming and energizing. Found in Earl Grey tea, it is no surprise the English are unflappable in a crisis.
This oil reduces your corticosterone response to stress and lowers your blood pressure.
Note: bergamot is photosensitizing so avoid using within 12 hours of sun exposure, so you do not irritate your skin.
Use for: depression and frustration.
Promotes peacefulness and serenity, while eliminating the effects of irritability. Many people drink chamomile tea before bed to help them unwind.
Take care if you have an allergy to ragweed.
Use for: overthinking, depression and insomnia.
Frankincense is a spiritual oil, often used in religious ceremonies and during meditation as it stills the mind. It works well with bergamot and lavender to calm and relax a racing brain.
Use for: chronic stress and depression.
This essential oil has many useful properties. It:
- Boosts mood
- Calms your stomach
- Reduces pain and inflammation
- Treats acne (thanks to its antimicrobial qualities)
- Lowers your pulse rate
You can use this versatile oil in a diffuser, spritzer or a massage oil.
Note: it is photosensitizing.
Use for: depression, acne and pain relief.
An unsettled stomach can be a physical symptom of anxiety. Peppermint relaxes the muscles of your gastrointestinal tract, reducing abdominal pain.
Headaches are another symptom, add peppermint to massage oil to ease your discomfort.
Use for: abdominal pain and headaches brought about by anxiety
Myrrh is another oil that is effective at combating the physical signs of anxiety. Add it to your massage oil to reduce pain and inflammation.
Use for: headaches and joint pain
11. Jatamansi (or Himalayan spikenard)
From the same family as valerian, jatamansi has a calming effect. It also reduces inflammation and has antimicrobial properties.
Apply topically or use in a diffuser.
Use for: stress, grief and insomnia.
12. Sweet Marjoram
This warming and comforting oil is also an effective anti-spasmodic, so will ease any aches and pains caused by tension.
Add to a warm bath, alongside lavender and orange.
Use for: overthinking and worrying.
Jasmine’s floral scent promotes calm and settles your nervous system, without causing drowsiness. It is also recognized as an aphrodisiac!
Inhale directly or diffuse.
Use for: stress, depression and relief from the effects of the menopause.
Used in Ayurvedic medicine to relieve anxiety, by promoting a sense of calm; patchouli is also an anti-inflammatory.
Use topically, add to a warm bath or inhale.
Note: patchouli can impact blood clotting.
Use for: depression and treating an unsettled stomach.
An effective oil for reducing stress, geranium lowers blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory qualities.
In a 2015 study, geranium was proven to reduce the anxiety of women in labor.
Inhale by applying to a tissue or cotton ball.
Use for: stress and depression.
Essential oils are an effective and time-tested way to reduce anxiety, as is engaging with nature and talking to a trusted person.
If you experience long-term anxiety, see your doctor for advice.