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Finding effective ways to manage and alleviate stress is crucial for our overall well-being. One popular and natural approach that has been the subject of extensive is the use of essential oils for stress relief.
In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an almost constant companion for many of us. The pressures of daily life, work demands, and personal responsibilities can affect both our mental and physical health, leaving us feeling exhausted, anxious, and overwhelmed.
Persistent, chronic stress can lead to a range of health issues, including high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
The big question is do essential oils work to reduce stress?
To get a scientific answer to this question, I read through several clinical studies done using diverse groups under different circumstances. Interestingly, the research showed show that using certain essential oils for stress can help promote relaxation, and reduce the associated adverse effects.
How Essential Oils Work for Stress Relief
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that can be used for various purposes, including promoting relaxation and reducing stress. These concentrated extracts work by interacting with the olfactory system, which is responsible for our sense of smell.
John Hopkins Medicine has an interesting, in-depth article that explains very well how aromatherapy works to treat your mind and body.
When we inhale the aroma of certain essential oils, the scent molecules activate the limbic system, which sends signals to the amygdala in the brain. This is the part of the brain that regulates our emotions and moods.
When the amygdala receives signals from essential oils for stress, it stimulates the production of ‘happy’ hormones while suppressing stress hormones.
Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin, from where they can enter the bloodstream and have a systemic effect on the body. This is why essential oils are often used in massage therapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Here is a list of the top 10 essential oils for stress, along with details of how each oil works to relieve stress and a link to relevant research.
Not surprisingly, lavender tops the list of most popular essential oils for stress relief. Its lightly floral aroma is immediately calming. As you keep inhaling its soothing scent, you will start to feel completely peaceful and relaxed.
Lavender essential oil is rich in the compounds linalool and linalyl acetate, which help to reduce cortisol levels, which is key to the oil’s calming and relaxing effects.
Several clinical trials have been carried out to evaluate the efficacy of lavender on stress, anxiety, and related conditions. All studies proved lavender’s efficacy in the treatment of stress and anxiety.
One study emphasized that the ‘simplicity, safety, and low cost’ make lavender essential oil an excellent therapeutic option for stress relief, even in clinical contexts.
It’s best to use lavender essential oil for stress at the end of the day towards bedtime because its aroma also works to promote sleep. Do not use this oil while driving.
Bergamot essential oil has a floral-citrusy aroma that is refreshing, uplifting, and calming. Inhaling its aroma helps improve mood and promotes a positive mindset, which is key to reducing stress levels.
In a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of bergamot essential oil for stress, participants were exposed to its aroma through a diffuser. Interestingly, as little as 15 minutes of exposure to bergamot essential oil increased positive feelings in participants by about 17%. That’s impressive for such a short exposure window.
Bergamot essential oil contains high levels of linalool and limonene, which gives the oil its floral-citrusy aroma. Both compounds are also very effective in alleviating stress and anxiety.
When you inhale its aroma, the molecules signal the brain to release dopamine, which boosts mood and positivity, decreasing stress levels almost instantly.
Bergamot essential oil for stress is best used around bedtime to create a tranquil, stress-free ambiance as you drift off to sleep.
3. Roman Chamomile
Known for its calming effect, Roman chamomile is a common ingredient in many herbal teas for anxiety and sleep. But does chamomile essential oil for stress also work?
Researchers exploring alternatives to conventional drugs in reducing symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder came to a surprising conclusion. The study found that Roman chamomile essential oil may have potent anxiolytic activity that reduces stress and anxiety levels.
What’s more, it showed significant efficacy without any adverse side effects or dependence related to conventional stress-relief treatments.
Roman Chamomile essential oil has a gentle, floral scent that has a calming and sedative effect. It is often used to promote relaxation and sleep and also helps reduce inflammation.
It’s best to use Roman chamomile essential oil for stress at bedtime to calm generalized anxiety disorder and create a soothing atmosphere that’s conducive to better sleep.
The warm woody aroma of sandalwood essential oil has proven anxiolytic properties, which makes it great for reducing anxiety levels. The calming effect of sandalwood induces a sense of peace and tranquility.
A clinical trial using a small group of participants found that sandalwood effectively reduced stress and anxiety.
With its calming, grounding effect, the best way to use sandalwood essential oil for stress while meditating. You can also add a blend of sandalwood and lavender essential oil to your bedside diffuser to promote better sleep.
The sweet exotic aroma of Jasmine essential oil helps to lower cortisol levels. This can ease tension, and anxiety, and promote a sense of calm and relaxation, making it a valuable tool in your self-care routine.
Volunteers who participated in a controlled study reported a marked decrease in negative emotions on inhaling jasmine essential oil. They also reported an increase in positive emotions including overall well-being, mood, and romance.
The best way to use jasmine essential oil for stress is by incorporating it in perfumes, and bath or body care products. A soothing massage with jasmine essential oil is another great way to experience its tranquilizing effects and find peace amidst life’s daily challenges.
The sharp citrusy aroma, of lemon essential oil is refreshing, uplifting, and energizing. Inhaling this scent instantly reduces stress, boosts energy levels, and contributes to a positive mood.
Several studies have suggested that lemon essential oil helps lower stress through a variety of mechanisms. This clinical trial found that inhaling the aroma of lemon has a similar effect as dopamine, a hormone that allows you to feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.
Another study found that lemon essential oil improved focus, concentration, and cognitive performance, leading to better performance in school and at work.
Because of its energizing aroma, it’s best to use lemon essential oil for stress in the morning or at work if you need to calm down before an important meeting. Avoid using this oil around bedtime as it can disrupt sleep.
Ylang ylang essential oil contains the compounds linalool and benzyl benzoate, which have been shown to have a relaxing and calming effect. It is widely used in aromatherapy to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote emotional well-being.
One clinical trial done to assess the impact of aromatherapy on cognition and mood found that exposure to ylang ylang increased calmness significantly in the control group compared to those who were given a placebo. However, it did decrease alertness, suggesting that ylang ylang essential oil for stress is best used to unwind and relax at the end of the day.
Another study also suggested that ylang ylang oil may help lower blood pressure in addition to creating a relaxing effect.
The sweet, feminine floral aroma of ylang ylang essential oil is also known for its aphrodisiac properties. It is a good option for use in feminine perfumes, body lotions, and bath care products.
In a blind control trial to study the relaxing effect of rose oil on humans, the emotional responses of participants were assessed using rating scales. The study found that rose essential oil significantly reduced breathing rate, systolic blood pressure, and blood oxygen saturation. The participants in the study also rated themselves as feeling calmer and more relaxed.
Diffusing rose essential oil creates a soothing and comforting environment that reduces anxiety symptoms and promotes relaxation and emotional well-being.
Rose essential oil also has proven skin-nourishing effects. Besides diffusing, you can also use rose essential oil for stress by adding it to your homemade bath and body care products.
A fun way to incorporate rose essential oil into your stress relief routine, is to mix it with a carrier oil and give your partner a relaxing massage. Use this recipe to make your own relaxing bath salts with rose essential oil and rose petals.
9. Sweet Orange
Sweet orange essential oil has a sweet and citrusy aroma with proven anxiolytic properties. It works wonderfully to improve mood, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
Volunteers participating in a blind trial done to assess the potential anxiolytic effect of sweet orange were submitted to a video-monitored version of the Stroop Color-Word Test, an anxiety-inducing test. The study found that participants who inhaled the sweet-citrusy aroma did not experience an increase in stress or tension, unlike volunteers who inhaled a placebo.
Sweet orange essential oil for stress is best used as a blend with other oils in a diffuser. Because of its mild, citrusy aroma, it blends especially well with oils from the floral aroma family such as lavender, ylang ylang, and chamomile.
10. Clary Sage
Clary sage essential oil is known for its mood-enhancing and stress-relieving properties. Inhaling its sweet floral-herbaceous aroma helps reduce anxiety symptoms and promote feelings of well-being.
The oil is rich in linalool and camphor. A clinical trial found that inhaling clary sage essential oil reduced cortisol levels significantly in menopausal women. This reduced stress and anxiety levels and also produced an antidepressant-like effect. This is because of the hormone-balancing effects of clary sage essential oil.
It’s best to use clary sage essential oil for stress during menopause as it also helps reduce hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms. It tops the list of essential oils that support women’s health.
List Of Best Essential Oils For Stress: A Reference Guide
As you can see from the details above, each of the essential oils for stress has different compounds. These compounds have additional effects in addition to bringing about calm and relaxation.
This reference guide will help you get the optimum stress relief benefits of each essential oil:
Lavender essential oil for stress: Best used at the end of the day to relax, unwind, and relieve anxiety. Add it to your bath, in a bedside diffuser, or as a pillow spray.
Bergamot essential oil for stress: Best added to a diffuser to lift your spirits and promote positivity.
Chamomile essential oil for stress: Best used to calm down before nighttime because of its sleep-inducing properties.
Sandalwood essential oil for stress: Best used while meditating because of its grounding aroma.
Jasmine essential oil for stress: Add to your bath or massage oil in the evening to experience its tranquilizing effects.
Lemon essential oil for stress: Best used in the morning to refresh and energize at the start of the day and at noon to beat the midday slump. Never use at night.
Ylang Ylang essential oil for stress: Use at the end of the day to unwind and relax.
Rose essential oil for stress: Inhale any time to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and promote calm and tranquility.
Sweet Orange essential oil for stress: Can be diffused and inhaled any time of the day to reduce stress and lift mood. Best used in blends with other floral oils.
Clary sage essential oil for stress: Especially effective for reducing menopause-related stress.
How to Use Essential Oils for Stress Relief
There are many ways to use essential oils for stress relief. Here are a few popular methods:
Use a Diffuser: Adding essential oils to a diffuser is the easiest and fastest way to fill your home with their calming scents. You can use an essential oil diffuser or vaporizer to disperse the oils into the air. Learn how to use an essential oil diffuser.
Inhale Oils Directly: You can inhale the aroma of essential oils by using a diffuser, adding a few drops to a tissue or cotton, or using a personal inhaler.
Use an Aromatherapy Massage Oil: Adding a few drops of essential oil to a carrier oil and then massaging it into your skin can help to promote relaxation and reduce muscle tension.
At the End of the Day, Add Oils to Your Bath: Adding essential oils to a warm bath can create a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The steam from the bath will release the aromatic compounds of the oils, promoting relaxation and stress relief. Lavender, Jasmine, and Rose are the best oils for this purpose.
At the Beginning of the Day, Add Oils to Your Shower: For an energetic, stress-free start to the day, use lemon essential oil in the shower.
Apply Topically To Pulse Points: Gently massage a blend of essential oil and carrier oil into your temples or the bottom of your feet. These are the best pulse points for essential oils for stress.
Add Oils to DIY Products: Add essential oils to skincare and bath care products to get their stress-relief properties.
Get more ideas here – 25 ways to use essential oils for stress without a diffuser.
Benefits of Using Essential Oils for Stress Relief
Using essential oils for stress relief offers some powerful benefits.
Promotes Relaxation: Some essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, and bergamot have a calming effect on the mind and body, making them an effective way to promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Reduces Anxiety and Depression: Inhaling the aromas of certain essential oils, such as lavender and rose, reduces cortisol levels, which reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Improves Sleep: Lavender and chamomile are two essential oils that can be used to improve sleep quality, making them an effective natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Boosts Mood: Bergamot, peppermint, and sweet orange essential oils have a positive effect on mood, helping to reduce feelings of sadness and promote happiness and positivity.
Precautions When Using Essential Oils For Stress Relief
While essential oils are generally safe, it is important to take some precautions when using them for stress relief. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Always use pure essential oils from a reputed brand. Read my detailed Plant Therapy brand review to know why this is my #1 recommended brand for essential oils and natural products.
Before topic application, test the essential oil for allergic reactions by performing a patch test. Apply the diluted oil on a small area of the skin and wait 24 hours to see if you have any allergic reaction before using it more widely.
Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes.
Use essential oils in moderation. These highly concentrated extracts can have an adverse reaction when used carelessly.
Do not ingest essential oils.
Most important of all, essential oils are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If you’re experiencing severe or chronic stress or anxiety, it is important to talk to your doctor. However, essential oils can be a helpful addition to your stress-management toolkit.
Always use only high-quality oils from reputable brands. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the purity or quality of essential oils, so conducting thorough research and consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable.
Other Natural Stress Relief Methods to Use with Essential Oils
In addition to using essential oils, there are several other natural methods that can be effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Here are a few ideas:
Meditation: Meditation is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Focusing your mind on a particular object or activity has an incredibly calming effect that works wonderfully to alleviate chronic stress and anxiety symptoms.
Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is a simple but effective way to reduce chronic stress and promote relaxation. It involves taking slow, deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body.
Journaling: Journaling is a therapeutic practice that offers an emotional release valve, allowing individuals to express their thoughts and feelings, reducing stress and anxiety in the process. Putting pen to paper or typing away on a screen provides a safe and private space to reflect, gain clarity, and find inner peace amidst life’s challenges.
Yoga: Yoga is a great way to reduce stress and promote relaxation. It combines gentle movement with deep breathing, making it a natural stress-relief technique.
From the soothing Lavender to the invigorating Peppermint and the earthy grounding of Sandalwood, there’s an essential oil for every individual and every mood. Whether you choose to diffuse them, apply them topically, or add a few drops to your bath, these aromatic elixirs offer a natural and holistic approach to managing stress.
Remember, the path to stress relief is a personal one, and what works best for you may differ from others. It’s essential to experiment and find the scents and methods that resonate with your senses and preferences. Keep in mind that essential oils are just one tool in your stress management toolkit. Incorporating relaxation techniques, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a supportive network into your daily life will contribute to a more balanced and stress-free existence.
Incorporating essential oils into your stress relief routine can be a natural and effective way to promote relaxation and well-being. By choosing the best essential oils for stress relief and using them correctly, you can create a soothing and calming environment that helps alleviate stress and anxiety.
Remember to prioritize safety and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your physician before using essential oils. See Full Disclaimer here.