Essential Oils to Ease Stress
There is no doubt that stress is an epidemic today. The American Institute of Stress reports that there are three main kinds of stress: acute distress, chronic distress and eustress (positive stress).
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that a whopping 78 percent of people have at least one symptom of stress.
Finding the right remedy to ease stress often requires approaching the symptoms of stress on multiple levels – physical, mental and emotional. You may find that having a toolkit of stress-easing remedies can support you to find relief from stress even as your symptoms change from day to day.
One promising remedy that is receiving greater research attention today is use of essential oils for stress relief. Essential oils are not new – in some cases, their use dates back hundreds or even thousands of years. But many of today's modern-day stressors are still new, which makes the discovery of stress-relieving properties in essential oils even more exciting.
In this article, learn about some of the most potent essential oils with stress-relieving effects. Also learn some good techniques for using essential oils as a way to ease stress symptoms.
How to Use Essential Oils for Stress Relief
There are several different methods for using essential oils that have become popular today.
It is not necessary to use all the methods to gain the benefits each essential oil has to offer. In fact, after trying several methods, you may find you like one method more than the others.
As with any new health and wellness remedy, it is always wise to talk with your healthcare provider before adding essential oils to your anti-stress regimen. This is especially smart if you are currently taking any ongoing medications for management of a health condition.
Adding a few drops of essential oil along with a carrier oil (such as olive, jojoba, avocado, coconut or another oil) to a diffuser is a great way to gently inhale the fragrance and get the benefits.
You can also simply add a few drops of essential oil to a pot or cup of very hot water and inhale the benefits.
Drawing a warm bath with a few drops of your favorite calming essential oil allows the oil to be gently absorbed through your skin to provide stress relief.
Some of the essential oils you will learn about here, in particular lavender and bergamot, are popular in tea form. Drinking a warm cup of soothing essential oil-infused tea is a great way to take in the calming benefits.
You can also add a drop or two of your go-to essential oil to your favorite non-scented moisturizer and smooth it on your skin to take in the benefits topically.
Some people like to add a drop of anti-stress essential oil under their tongue to absorb its benefits directly. Be aware that some essential oils can be quite strong unless diluted by a carrier oil.
Always talk with your healthcare provider or read the manufacturer instructions carefully before trying this option.
Lavender Essential Oil
Bergamot Essential Oil
Lemongrass Essential Oil
Neroli Essential Oil
Lemon Essential Oil
1. Lavender Essential Oil
There is a reason so many fragrances, personal care products, candles, bed linens and drawer sachets feature this most timeless of scents – lavender.
Lavender is soothing. It is calming. It also smells great.
A 2016 study published by the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine highlighted the ability of lavender to ease pre-test stress and anxiety in research participants.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice related the stress-relieving impact of inhalation of a simple lavender essential oil and water formula. Nurses who used this formula as needed over a three to four day period reported lower levels of on-the-job stress than did co-workers who used a placebo formula.
Lavender's fine fragrance is not the only reason it has become a well-known calming agent. Lavender itself has well known anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, analgesic (pain-relieving) and sedating properties.
On a purely physical as well as a mental and emotional level, lavender essential oil goes to work quickly to calm systemic stress and induce ease and calm.
2. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil is perhaps best known for its use in Earl Grey tea – that sharp citrus fragrance comes from citrus bergamia, the fruit peel that also yields bergamot essential oil.
Bergamot is also a popular addition to a wide variety of fragrances, lotions and personal care products, including cosmetics. The spicy citrus scent has made bergamot a favorite for general use as well as for reduction of stress.
In 2013, a Current Drug Targets journal study showcased bergamot's ability to induce the brain to release the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine, lowering anxiety and easing depression.
In 2015, a Japanese study highlighted bergamot essential oil's impact as a stress-reliever when inhaled in a water-vapor formula.
In 2017, a study in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research showed that inhalation of bergamot as able to boost mood in a group of mental health patients.
It is important not to use bergamot essential oil on its own, because it is quite strong and may promote skin irritation. Rather, diffuse bergamot essential oil in a water vapor base or add a few drops to your favorite carrier oil before use.
3. Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass is another popular citrus-scented essential oil with known anti-stress properties. Lemongrass actually comes from the herb by the same name, which is also popular in culinary circles for its delicious taste.
Lemongrass in essential oil form is known to contain anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant, analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-stress properties.
A 2015 study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that diffused lemongrass essential oil produced an immediate lessening of anxiety and stress symptoms when inhaled.
In another 2015 research study published by ResearchGate, participants who inhaled lemongrass essential oil while experiencing massage reported lower anxiety and stress levels.
One reason lemongrass essential oil is receiving increasing interest from researchers is because of its active compound, eugenol. Eugenol has analgesic (pain relieving) properties that some researchers liken to that provided by aspirin.
In a 2010 study published by the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, eugenol was also shown to boost serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that is targeted by many anti-anxiety and anti-depression treatments today.
While lemongrass can be used readily in recipes and consumed safely in this way, when using lemongrass directly as an essential oil, it is important to use a dilution agent such as water or a carrier oil. Sweet almond oil is a particularly complementary carrier oil to use with lemongrass. Check out our full review of tea tree oil benefits as well.
4. Neroli Essential Oil
Neroli has a lovely sweet-spicy fragrance that is actually derived from the bitter orange tree's blossoms.
Neroli in its essential oil form has known anti-depressant, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic and sedating properties, among others.
In one 2010 study published in the Journal of Hepatogastroenterology, colonoscopy subjects who first inhaled neroli essential oil had lower blood pressure scores overall than subjects that inhaled a control oil.
An earlier research study in 2008 published by the Proceedings of Measuring Behavior showed that animal research models had an improved stress and anxiety-reduction response after inhaling neroli essential oil than they did after inhaling various controls.
5. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil is already quite popular in everything from cooking and cleaning to teas and topicals. But now research shows that lemon essential oil can have stress-easing properties as well.
Lemon essential oil is derived from the leaves of lemon plants which contain the active ingredient linalool. Linalool is not unique to lemon trees, but is also found in lavender plants, basil plants, orange plants and other fruit and food plants.
Lemon essential oil is known to have calming, anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, detoxifying and cleansing properties.
Health expert Dr. Josh Axe points out that the use of lemon essential oil in Ayurvedic medicine dates back at least 1,000 years. Lemon essential oil contains a number of active ingredients including sesquiterpenes and terpenes which are known for their calming properties in particular.
A 2014 research study published by the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice showed that diffused lemon essential oil were able to help cancer patients fight off nausea and stress.
Because lemon essential oil can be quite potent and thus somewhat irritating to the skin, it is important to use it with a carrier oil or water base. As well, lemon can have a lightening effect (something summer blondes likely already know about) so take care to stay out of direct strong sunlight after topical use.
6. Yuzu Essential Oil
Yuzu essential oil has a citrus fragrance derived from the Japanese Yuzu fruit. Some proponents describe the fragrance as a cross between grapefruit and mandarin oranges – slightly bitter, slightly sweet.
A 2014 study published by the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that inhalation of yuzu essential oil over a 10-minute period reduced one marker for stress in participants' saliva samples.
Another 2014 study published by Elsevier's Journal of Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that inhalation of yuzu essential oil was an aid to easing stress in mothers caring for ill children.
7. Orange Essential Oil
Few people are unfamiliar with the lovely tangy, sweet scent of oranges. Orange essential oil is not just a popular addition for cooking, teas and fragrances but also has potent stress reduction properties in its own right.
Sweet orange and bitter orange essential oils are two different types of orange essential oil and both have been found to be effective for lowering stress.
In one 2012 study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, research participants who were permitted to breathe in sweet orange essential oil did not have a spike in stress levels when exposed to an anxiety-provoking experience.
In another 2017 study published by the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, research participants who inhaled the bitter orange variant of orange essential oil had lower anxiety levels during a mock public speaking event than did control group study participants.
8. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
Ylang Ylang essential oil actually comes from an herb named Cananga odorata genuina. The sweet floral fragrance has made this essential oil a popular addition to many personal care products, perfumes and lotions as well as some teas.
In a 2012 study published by the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, research participants who breathed in an essential oil blend containing ylang ylang essential oil experienced lower blood pressure levels and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The results of this study increased researcher interest in use of ylang ylang essential oil for hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as its calming benefits.
9. Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense has been a famous and well-loved essential oil and aromatherapy tool since Biblical times. Distilled from the resin of the Boswellia tree, frankincense was at one time more valuable and valued than gold.
Today, Frankincense is a popular addition to many incense blends, perfumes and personal care products for its rich and intoxicating fragrance.
According to the International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology and Neurological Diseases, Frankincense has known antiseptic, astringent and sedative properties and includes some of the same anti-anxiety compounds as lemon essential oil, sequiterpenes.
In Ayurvedic medicine traditions, Frankincense has an extensive history of use for calming, detoxifying and purifying rites in the form of “dhoop,” a rich and pliable form of Asian/Indian incense. In this form, Frankincense is documented for use to ease postpartum depression, easing pain, fighting germs, reducing inflammation, calming the mind and promoting healing and wellness.
Each of these essential oils can become an important addition to your anti-stress remedy toolkit. But you don't have to try them all at once. Just pick out one that resonates and try it and see what works. Read more of our natural beauty articles on our blog.