Did you know that the most common mental health issues in the U.S. are anxiety disorders? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety affects 18.1% of the U.S. population, with women being 60% more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder over their lifetime.
And these are just the diagnosed cases. We can’t know the true level of people living with anxiety who haven’t sought professional help. Those simply holding on by their fingernails, getting by. Then of course there are those who suffer periodic anxiety due to specific events, or certain stressors in life. Trips to the dentist, being in labor, workloads, surgery, family problems… Anxiety is rife in today’s modern world.
Whatever the case or reason, the fact is anxiety costs the U.S. over $42 billion a year! That’s from patients seeking treatment through traditional health care, mainly the cost of repeated visits. This would seem to indicate that whatever the docs are doing and/or prescribing… isn’t working so well!
Here’s the next question… Did you also know that for centuries, essential oils have been used effectively for anxiety?
If you look at the growing library of research on these powerful plant oils (that are some 40-50% more powerful as extracts than the plant themselves), it’s no wonder. What a gift to have bona fide science finally backing up what traditional practices have known for thousands of years. Literally!
If you’re looking for an essential oil for anxiety, here are 8 of the best options according to science…
Lavender Essential Oil
Historically oil of lavender has been used for everything from perfume to healing, from embalming to insect repellent.
Among its benefits, lavender has been shown to offer pain relief, and even antibiotic characteristics. Add to this list burn healing, allergy support, and being anti-fungal. She’s the queen of essential oils, for sure!
When it comes to oils for anxiety, lavender is the best essential oil for anxiety across the board. In fact it’s been put into capsule form and sold as a natural anti-anxiety supplement. It’s non-sedative, and has been compared to traditional prescription meds as “an effective substitute,” while being non-addictive. In fact one study that elicited anxiety responses in rats (alarm periods) went so far as to say, “lavender oil increased the response rate during the alarm period in a dose-dependent manner in the same manner as diazepam.” [Note: Diazepam was first marketed as valium and is a drug commonly used to treat anxiety disorders.]
A 2013 paper published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine stated that studies on both animals and humans provides growing evidence that “lavender oil may be an effective medicament in treatment of several neurological disorders.”
It’s not just for anxiety disorders, though. Lavender essential oil has been studied for use in operations and dental work, showing great effect at lowering stress and anxiety during these often fraught situations.
When using lavender to help with anxiety, don’t be fooled by imitations: there is only one “true” lavender that has the most potent effects: Lavandula angustifolia.
You can use lavender essential oil in a variety of ways to address anxiety: as aromatherapy via inhalation, ingestion (see cautions further below), as well as applying to the skin. In the case of skin applications, you can apply it directly or use a carrier oil (organic, cold-pressed coconut, avocado, or olive oil are all good options) and it will absorb and be at its peak of efficacy after about 20 minutes.
Lemon and Orange Oil
When it comes to the wonders of both lemon and orange essential oils, it’s all about the phytochemical (plant chemical) limonene. There is extensive research on limonene, including over 200 studies on its anti-cancer benefits. The levels of limonene in citrus plants will vary depending on the trees themselves, but in general lemons contain 59-73% limonene, and orange oil 85-96%.
In a 2006 study, lemon oil was found to possess “anxiolytic [anti-anxiety], antidepressant-like effects.” In one study between the essential oil of lemon and other oils, “lemon oil had the strongest anti-stress effect.”
Orange essential oil has been studied in a variety of anxiety-causing circumstances, most notably dentistry, surgery, and women in labor. All research points to the positive effect orange oil had on the anxiety levels of patients.
Both lemon oil and orange oil can be used via inhalation, and skin application. You can also add a few drops to your water, for added flavor and health benefits.
Rose Essential Oil
This essential oil has been used for everything from cooking to perfume. Though it has always been highly revered in traditional healing practices, not everyone realizes the health benefits this fragrant oil hides as well.
The key components of rose oil are the phytochemicals citronellol and geraniol. Depending on the plants, soil, and harvesting of the flowers, rose oil contains 34-44% and 12-28% of these powerful chemicals, respectively.
Among the benefits of rose essential oil are (in alphabetical order):
- acting as an antidepressant
- antiphlogistic (preventing/relieving inflammation)
- antiseptic (preventing the growth of disease-causing microorganisms)
- antispasmodic (relieving spasms)
- cholagogue (promoting beneficial discharge of bile)
- cicatrisant (forming healing scar tissue)
- depurative (purifying/detoxifying)
- emmenagogue (stimulating menstrual flow)
- haemostatic (stopping bleeding)
- hepatic (helping keep the liver strong)
- nervine (calming the nerves)
- stomachic (promoting appetite/assisting digestion)
- uterine (regulating menstruation)
Several studies have shown rose oil to posses the power to “significantly lower” anxiety. This includes a study where blood pressure, breathing rate, and oxygen saturation were notable affected. It’s also been used as an essential oil for depression.
Geranium Essential Oil
Yet another powerful flower! Although geranium oil is actually distilled from the leaves and stems, as opposed to the flower petals as is rose oil.
Because geranium oil is significantly less expensive to produce, it is often used in place of rose oil. However, the essence of geranium should not be dismissed. It contains its own depths as a natural healing aid, with some 65 phytochemicals, as well as being rich in antioxidants. Little wonder then it has been long used for a wide variety of health benefits, including possessing anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, anti-hemorrhagic, and antiseptic benefits. Geranium oil has many anti-cancer benefits as well.
Studies have also shown geranium oil to relieve anxiety, and bring higher levels of wellbeing. A 2015 study reported, “The mean anxiety score decreased significantly after inhalation of the aroma of geranium essential oil. There was also a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure.”
You can use geranium oil in a variety of ways. Try rubbing it on your skin (either directly or with a good carrier oil such as jojoba or fractionated coconut oil) or using a cold diffuser. Even placing some drops on your hands and rubbing them together as you inhale has positive effects. The FDA has deemed this oil safe for consumption, so you could try adding a couple drops to a drink, sweetening (if desired) with a healthier sweetener such as organic honey or green stevia.
Peppermint & Eucalyptus Essential Oils
These are two essential oils that, while well known, have not been commonly connected to anxiety relief. First, let’s look at peppermint oil…
It may surprise you to learn that this “spicy” oil has been found to have anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) benefits, as well. It’s true, this oil is more commonly known for its other qualities, including being antiseptic/antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, offering pain relief, and acting as an amazing digestive aid and for calming a nervous stomach. In addition, researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center found that peppermint oil has “a calming, soothing effect on anxiety and depression.”
Several other studies have been done and continue on the benefits of using this plant powerhouse for anxiety.
Another essential oil that’s not often been connected to anxiety relief is eucalyptus. A 2014 study reported that “1,8-Cineole, a major constituent of eucalyptus, was effective in decreasing anxiety,” in fact, significantly more than the other components being tested.
Of course this oil is better known for its use in cold medicines. It’s also used as an insect repellent, is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic, and anti-inflammatory. It’s even good for pain relief, helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. It will be exciting to see the research connecting eucalyptus essential oil to anxiety grow as time goes on.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Last, but far from least, is the essential oil of frankincense.
Substantial research has been done on this medicinal gift from the Boswellia tree, largely due to its long history and use in ancient healing traditions. Among its known healing benefits, frankincense oil has been shown to help with arthritis pain, balancing hormones, encouraging skin health, providing neurological support, and aiding digestion.
Frankincense’s cancer benefits are wide-ranging, too, being reported to be anti-inflammatory, to boost immune function, and improve circulation, among others.
With regards to anxiety specifically, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology reported frankincense “causes behavioral as well as anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects in mice” containing “an arsenal of bio-active small molecules with a considerable therapeutic potential that is far from being utilized.” Science continues to study this plant extract across the gamut of health issues, but, as in a 2004 study on its use in the labor room, the use of oil of frankincense has been “favourably reported” as one of the top essential oils for “relief of anxiety and fear.”
You can use oil of frankincense on your skin, directly or with a carrier oil. Try putting some behind your ears, or at the base of your throat. You can also use a cold diffuser (heating kills many of the benefits of essential oils), and pure, top quality frankincense oils are ingestible.
CAUTION: Using Essential Oils Carries Risks
Essential oils are powerful. Despite their natural origins they should be used with care. To receive the most therapeutic benefits use only the highest quality, organic essential oils such as those sourced by Organixx.
- Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults
- The Metabolic Responses to Aerial Diffusion of Essential Oils
- Bergamot: A Powerful Mood-Booster
- Behavioral effects of plant-derived essential oils in the geller type conflict test in mice.
- [The effects of the inhalation method using essential oils on blood pressure and stress responses of clients with essential hypertension].
- Lavender and the Nervous System
- Essential Oils for Complementary Treatment of Surgical Patients: State of the Art
- Comparison of antispasmodic effects of Dracocephalum kotschyi essential oil, limonene and α-terpineol.
- 6 Ways to Use Citrus Essential Oil for Cancer Prevention
- Lemon oil vapor causes an anti-stress effect via modulating the 5-HT and DA activities in mice.
- Health Benefits of Orange Essential Oil
- The effect of aromatherapy by essential oil of orange on anxiety during labor: A randomized clinical trial.
- Health Benefits of Rose Essential Oil
- The Magnificence of Rose Essential Oil for Health & Beauty
- Comparing the effects of aromatherapy with rose oils and warm foot bath on anxiety in the first stage of labor in nulliparous women.
- The effects of prolonged rose odor inhalation in two animal models of anxiety.
- Anxiolytic-like effects of rose oil inhalation on the elevated plus-maze test in rats
- The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman – a pilot study.
- 17 Healing Uses of Geranium Essential Oil
- An In Vitro System Comprising Immortalized Hypothalamic Neuronal Cells (GT1-7 Cells) for Evaluation of the Neuroendocrine Effects of Essential Oils.
- Effect of Inhalation of Aroma of Geranium Essence on Anxiety and Physiological Parameters during First Stage of Labor in Nulliparous Women: a Randomized Clinical Trial
- Peppermint Oil for Anxiety & Depression
- National Center for Biotechnology Information – Peppermint Anxiolytic
- The Effect of 1,8-Cineole Inhalation on Preoperative Anxiety: A Randomized Clinical Trial
- Effect of Echinophora platyloba, Stachys lavandulifolia, and Eucalyptus camaldulensis plants on Trichomonas vaginalis growth in vitro
- The Powerful Protective Properties of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
- Frankincense−therapeutic properties.
- The Anti-Inflammatory and Healing Power of Boswellia Serrata
- Boswellia resin: from religious ceremonies to medical uses; a review of in-vitro, in-vivo and clinical trials.
- Non-pharmacological pain relief in labour.