Essential oils have many health benefits, but they really shine when used to treat anxiety.
Like a bullet straight into the heart of your biochemistry, your phytochemicals can quickly get into the bloodstream and quickly relieve anxiety.
Here are the four best essential oils for anxiety:
What makes these essential oils so effective in calming the nervous system?
Read on to find out.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are extracted from the roots, stems, flowers, leaves and bark of certain plants.
Their therapeutic compounds can promote relaxation, improve mood, reduce anxiety, and relieve depression.
How Essential Oils Can Help Anxiety
Most compounds need to be digested or injected to get into the bloodstream.
However, the phytochemicals in essential oils like linalool and linalyl acetate are small enough to get through the skin and nasal cavities.
From there, they can easily travel across the blood-brain barrier for possible anxiety relief.
People with anxiety often have digestive problems that inhibit the absorption of nutrients, which makes essential oils a particularly valuable treatment.
Use of essential oils for anxiety
Essential oils can be ingested, applied topically, or inhaled.
However, aromatherapy massage can work particularly quickly.
A 2008 study found that hand aromatherapy massages with a mixture of bergamot, lavender, and frankincense were better at reducing anxiety, pain, and depression in hospice patients than regular massages alone. The essential oil blend contained a 1.5 percent dilution of the essential oils using sweet almond oil as the carrier oil.
Carrier oils such as almond, coconut and hemp seed oil can spread the essential oil over a larger surface and expand its aromatic effects.
However, oral lavender oil can also be effective.
A 2009 study published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology found that oral lavender oil capsules can reduce anxiety in participants who watch stressful movie clips.
4 Best Essential Oils For Anxiety
Essential oils can reduce the production of stress hormones and promote calming neurotransmitters.
Here’s a closer look at the four best essential oils for anxiety:
Lavender is the queen of anti-anxiety oils, and there is a mountain of evidence to prove it.
Over the years, lavender essential oil has been studied for treating wounds, burns, and seizures. However, recent research suggests that it may also have powerful anti-anxiety, mood-stabilizing, and calming effects.
It can also be consumed as lavender tea.
Here’s what the research says about lavender essential oil for anxiety:
- According to a 2013 meta-analysis, lavender can boost the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA and reduce glutamate, which tends to be overactive in anxious individuals.
- A 2012 study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that lavender can reduce anxiety by acting on acetylcholine: the primary neurotransmitter involved in higher thinking.
- Inhaled lavender can target the limbic system by targeting the hippocampus and amygdala: the emotional center of the brain.
- Animal studies show that inhaled lavender can reduce cortisol: the main hormone associated with chronic stress and anxiety.
- In a 2014 human study, researchers found that oral lavender oil may outperform prescription anxiolytic paroxetine in treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Although the FDA does not officially recognize lavender oil as a treatment for anxiety disorders, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) does.
Recent research shows that lavender oil can also lower inflammation, lower blood pressure, and slow heart rate.
Bergamot is another widely used essential oil that can relieve anxiety, pain, stress, and inflammation.
According to a 2011 rodent study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, “Both BEO [bergamot essential oil] and diazepam [prescription medication] demonstrated anxiolytic behavior and decreased activity of the HPA axis by reducing the corticosterone response to stress.
In other words, bergamot treated stress and anxiety by calming the stress response.
Human studies are also promising.
A 2017 pilot study found that bergamot oil aromatherapy can enhance positive feelings in the waiting room of a psychiatric treatment center.
Studies show that rose essential oil can balance hormones, reduce stress, and treat anxiety.
Here’s what research says about the health benefits of rose essential oil:
- In a 2007 Japanese study, rose oil aromatherapy was effective in reducing cortisol levels in both female and male volunteers. It also lowered testosterone in women, but had no effect on testosterone in men.
- According to a 2016 clinical study, patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment may experience decreased anxiety with rose oil aromatherapy.
- Similarly, a 2014 study suggests that inhaling rose oil can increase wellness by inhibiting neurotransmitter activity in the prefrontal cortex.
- According to another 2014 study, rose oil foot baths can be far more effective than regular foot baths at reducing anxiety.
Rose essential oil also contains eugenol: one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world.
Chamomile tea is widely used as a natural sleep aid, and that’s because the plant contains several therapeutic phytochemicals, including the calming compound chamazulene.
These properties also make chamomile great for reducing stress and anxiety.
Both chamomile aromatherapy and oral chamomile appear to be equally effective.
In a 2009 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers from Pennsylvania State University tested the effects of oral chamomile capsules in 57 patients with mild generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Compared to the placebo, the participants showed a statistically significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
According to the study’s authors, “these results suggest that chamomile may have modest benefits for some people with mild to moderate GAD.”
At the same time, an aromatherapy study from 2013 found a significant difference in anxiety scores between the chamomile and the control group.
To top it off, chamomile contains several terpenes and flavonoids that can treat gastrointestinal inflammation and relieve pain.
What to know before using essential oils for anxiety
Other anti-anxiety oils to check out are sage, frankincense, geranium, and orange oil.
It’s also a good idea to never ingest essential oils without first making sure they’re food safe. Many oils are made with synthetic perfumes that can upset and irritate the stomach.
If you have had serious medical conditions in the past or are currently on prescription medication, be sure to consult a specialist before adding essential oils to your regular health practice.
All in all, many people have found that aromatherapy and other essential oil uses are very useful in reducing anxiety – and so may you.
Justin Fowler-Lindner, a former EMT freelance writer, spends his days popping diet supplements and soaking up the sun in tropical locations around the world.
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