Anxiety is a very common problem and many suffer from it, including me. Anxiety can constantly be there. Sometimes if I already have a super packed day, a simple change in my daily schedule can cause stress and panic. For many people, simple tasks like shopping are easy and carefree, but for someone with anxiety, it can be very difficult.
There are medications to help deal with anxiety. Anxiety medications come with side effects and safety concerns, such as the risk of addiction.Anti-anxiety medications are also known as tranquilizers. They slow down the nervous system which in turn creates a relaxing and calming effect. Many popular anxiety medications are Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.
These medications are benzodiazepines and come with these side effects:
Confusion and disorientation
Impaired thinking and judgment
Blurred or double vision
In cases mostly involving children and the elderly, they can cause paradoxical effects which include:
Hostility and rage
Aggressive and impulsive behavior
These medications can also be deadly when mixed with antihistamines, antidepressants, and/or alcohol. I personally don’t want to put medicines into my body that can cause these side effects if there is a natural, healthy alternative.
But, can essential oils really help with anxiety? Yes they can. Here are some case studies on essential oils and their effectiveness on anxiety.
CASE STUDIES ON ESSENTIAL OILS ON ANXIETY
- In a recent 2014 study by the American College of Healthcare Sciences, 58 hospice patients were given hand massages once a day for one week with an essential oil blend in 1.5 percent dilution with sweet almond oil. The essential oil blend consisted of these essential oils in equal ratios of bergamot, frankincense and lavender. All patients who received the aromatherapy hand massage reported less pain and depression, concluding that aromatherapy massage with this essential oil blend is more effective for pain and depression management than massage alone.
- Another study conducted in Taiwan in 2011 provided clearer and more powerful evidence. The authors selected elementary school teachers, who are known to work under significant stress, and used an inhalation of bergamot C. aurantium var. bergamia essential oil as the method of administration; they focused on the physiological stress signals that are easy to record and straightforward to interpret. They found that even a 10-minute-long weekly inhalation of aromatherapy resulted in a significant reduction of blood pressure and heart rate, and drove autonomic nervous activity toward a balanced state. In addition, participants with moderate and high degrees of anxiety benefited more than the light anxiety group.
- Researchers even demonstrated in an animal study with mice that bergamot essential oil’s calming properties can be as strong as diazepam (valium),although it’s important to note that in this animal study, mice received injections of bergamot C. aurantium var. bergamia essential oil. I am certainly not advocating injections with bergamot oil, but inhalation or diluted topical application could be effective.
Anxiety is a tough battle to face day in and day out, which makes having a natural solution, such as an essential oil blend, important. Here are some amazing essential oils for chronic anxiety!
1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Considered the most common essential oil, lavender oil benefits include having a calming, relaxing effect. It’s considered a nervous system restorative and helps with inner peace, sleep, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach and general nervous tension.
“The Handbook of Essential Oils: Science, Technology, and Applications, Second Edition” states that there have been a number of clinical trials involving the inhalation of lavender essential oil that indicate a reduction in stress and anxiety. One study using oral lavender essential oil via capsules found that heart rate variation significantly increased compared to the placebo while watching an anxiety-provoking film. This suggested that lavender had anxiolytic effects.
Further research demonstrates lavender’s ability to lower anxiety in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery and in people visiting the dentist.
Lavender essential oil is my go to oil. I never leave home without it, because it is so amazing at so many things. In a 2007 study, Lavender aromatherapy reduced serum cortisol. Serum Cortisol is a key player in the body’s response to stress. Lavender is also shown to have no sedative effects and no potential drug abuse.
2. Rose (Rosa damascena)
One of the benefits of rose essential oil is it’s very settling to the emotional heart and perhaps the second most popular after lavender for relieving anxiety and depression, helping with panic attacks, grieving and shock. In study of women who were pregnant for the first time published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, one group of women was received a 10-minute inhalation and footbath with oil rose, another group received a 10-minute warm-water footbath, and they were compared to a control group. The findings showed “aromatherapy and footbath reduces anxiety in active phase in nulliparous women.”
3. Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides)
Vetiver oil has a tranquil, grounding and reassuring energy, often used in trauma helping with self-awareness, calmness and stabilization. A nervous system tonic, it decreases jitteriness and hypersensitivity and is also useful in panic attacks and shock. A study published in Natural Product Research examining the anxiety-like behavior in rats concluded that vetiver oil may be useful in lowering anxiety effects, though more research is needed to confirm this finding.
4. Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
This popular essential oil can treat anxiety and depression due to its calming and uplifting effects. Ylang ylang helps with cheerfulness, courage, optimism and soothes fearfulness. It may calm heart agitation and nervous palpitations and is a moderately strong sedative, which can help with insomnia.
In a 2006 study conducted by Geochang Provincial College in Korea, using ylang ylang oil, along with bergamot and lavender oils, once a day for four weeks reduced “psychological stress responses and serum cortisol levels, as well as the blood pressure of clients with essential hypertension.”
Be careful when using ylang ylang, as it can be sensitizing or irritating to the skin; avoid using in conditions of low blood pressure.
5. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
Bergamot is commonly found in Earl Grey tea and has a distinctive floral taste and aroma. Bergamot oil is calming and often used to treat depression by providing energy; however, it can also help with insomnia induce relaxation and reduce agitation.
It’s been proven to reduce corticosterone response to stress in rats, and another interesting study conducted in 2011 hypothesizes that applying blended essential oil that includes bergamot to participants helps in treating depression or anxiety. The blended essential oil consisted of lavender and bergamot oils.
Compared with the placebo, blended essential oil caused significant natural ways to reduce blood pressure and pulse rate, and participants in the blended essential oil group rated themselves as “more calm” and “more relaxed” than the control group.
Bergamot is generally safe, but it is photosensitizing, meaning it can increase the risk of sunburn and rash. It is best to avoid use within 12 hours of sun exposure.
Bergamot has a long history of helping feelings of stress. A study done in Taiwan in 2011 treated highly stressed teachers with 10 minutes of bergamot essential oil aromatherapy. The result showed a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate while also balancing nervous activity.
6. Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
A peaceful, calming scent, chamomile benefits inner harmony and decreases irritability, overthinking, anxiety and worry. An explorative study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine on the antidepressant activity in chamomile found that this essential oil “may provide clinically meaningful antidepressant activity that occurs in addition to its previously observed anxiolytic activity.”
Another study published by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that chamomile capsules have been shown to ease anxiety symptoms. Chamomile oil is generally safe, except for a some small risk of allergy, especially with anyone who has an allergy to ragweed.
7. Frankincense (Boswellia carteri or boswella sacra)
Frankincense is great for treating depression and anxiety because it provides a calming and tranquil energy as well as spiritual grounding. In aromatherapy, it helps deepen meditation and quiet the mind.
Mixed with bergamot and lavender oils in a 1:1 ratio in an aroma hand massage, frankincense was found to have a positive effect on pain and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer in a Keimyung University study in Korea.
8. Clary Sage ( Salvia sclarea)
The English name clary originates from the Latin sclarea, which was derived from clarus, meaning “clear.” I like to think of clary sage Salvia sclarea (L.) essential oil as “clearing” away the dark clouds of our mood, as it’s traditionally been known for its uplifting and euphoric actions. This is an oil you can recommend to clients to diffuse before bed or add to the bath for a relaxing, restorative soak.
A 2010 research study with rats documented clary sage S. sclarea essential oil’s uplifting effects, suggesting that it could be a useful holistic routine for those coping with depression and anxiety.
Additionally, a randomized controlled trial in 2013 suggested that clary sage S. sclarea essential oil may be useful—more so than lavender Lavandula angustifolia [Mill.]—in reducing stress for female patients undergoing urodynamic assessment.
More Mood-Boosting Oils
Here are additional essential oils that can calm, brighten your day, or both:
Basil Ocimum basilicum (L.)
Geranium Pelargonium graveolens (L’Her.)
Grapefruit Citrus paradisi (Macfad.)
Lime Citrus aurantifolia (Christm.)
Neroli Citrus aurantium (L.) var. amara
Sandalwood Santalum album (L.)
Sweet orange Citrus sinensis (Osbeck)
How to Use Essential Oils for Anxiety
Essential oils can be used in three different ways: aromatherapy, ingestion or topically.
Aromatherapy for anxiety is very popular because our sense of smell triggers powerful emotional responses. We process so much information through our sense of smell — in particular, in an area of the brain adjacent to the limbic region, according to “Freedom from Anxiety: A Holistic Approach to Emotional Well-Being” by Marcey Shapiro and Barbara Vivino. This is the area of emotional processing and memory recall.
When the scent of an essential oil is inhaled, molecules enter the nasal cavities and stimulate a firing of mental response in the limbic system of the brain. These stimulants regulate stress or calming responses, such as heart rate, breathing patterns, production of hormones and blood pressure. Aromatherapy can be obtained by using it in a bath, as direct inhalations, hot water vapor, vaporizer or humidifier, fan, vent, perfume, cologne, or — one of my favorites — through aromatherapy diffusers.
Many essential oils can be ingested by the mouth; however, it is critical to make sure that the oils you use are safe and pure. Many oils on the market may be diluted or blended with synthetics that are unsafe for ingesting. The Food and Drug Administration has approved some essential oils generically for internal use and given them the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) designation for human consumption.
The most effective way to consume them, according to “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy,” is to add a drop of oil in a glass of water or in a teaspoon with honey. You can simply add a drop or two underneath the tongue. This is beneficial because the blood capillaries are so close to the surface of the tissue under the tongue, allowing them to pass more quickly into the bloodstream and travel to the different areas of the body where they’re needed.
Other oral application options include capsules, adding a drop or two to your favorite beverage, making a tea, and cooking.
Many prefer topical uses of essential oils. Topical application is a process of placing an essential oil on the skin, hair, mouth, teeth, nails or mucous membranes of the body. When the oils touch the skin, they penetrate rapidly.
Since they are so potent, it is important to dilute and blend with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond, jojoba, olive, avocado or coconut oil. You can apply the blend directly to an affected area, on the bottoms of the feet, rims of the ears, using compresses, in baths or through massage.
These medications can also be deadly when mixed with antihistamines, antidepressants, and/or alcohol.
How to use essential oils and find your anxiety hot spots!
Whether your anxiety is triggered in the car or on the job, essential oils are easily used anywhere and work quickly. Carry your essential oils with you wherever you go.
During an anxiety attack, you can either just open the cap and breathe in the vapor or warm a drop on your palms and inhale.
For the car or anxiety hot spots around your home, add a drop or two to a clothespin and clip it to that area. Diffusing is my favorite use of essential oils. Diffuse in your home for a fresh and calm household.
My Anti-Anxiety Mix
A mix of your favorite relaxing essential oils is also a good idea. Take a look at my favorite mixture!
5 drops lavender EO
3 drops Ylang ylang EO
2 drops Bergamot EO
Mix the oils in a glass container and either add 3 drops to warm bath water and diffuse, or create a soothing soap.
Calming Bath Mixture
3 drops Clary sage EO
2 drops Ylang ylang EO
Add this essential oil mixture to a full warm bath. Soak in the tub and breathe in the essential oils to create a calming and relaxing atmosphere.
Easy Lavender Neck Rub
3 drops pure lavender oil
1 teaspoon fractionated coconut oil or almond oil
Blend the lavender oil and coconut or almond oil in your palm and rub onto your neck for natural anxiety relief. You can also rub onto the bottoms of your feet. This is perfect for anytime or just before bed.
Here is a floral blend that may be supportive with coping with stress or sadness:
Calming Floral Blend:
Lavender oil: 5 drops
Ylang ylang oil: 3 drops
Bergamot Citrus oil: 2 drops
Blend the oils and add 3 drops to a full bath or use a foot or hand bath once daily. Adding this formula to liquid soap and using it daily in the shower is also an effective alternative.
doTERRA has several great blends for Anxiety also.
**This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.