by Brian P. Ramos

Top Essential Oils to Reduce Stress with Research to Support it

If you live with chronic stress, practicing techniques such as mindfulness meditation or certain pranayama (breathing) exercises and talking to a mental healthcare professional may help to lessen the psychological burden of worries and anxiety and relax your mind. In addition to these powerful resources, there is also aromatherapy. Research suggests that aromatherapy essential oil scent may help.

Despite aromatherapy’s popularity, there is still a lack of large-scale clinical trials exploring the effects of aromatherapy on anxiety, which I discuss as well HERE. While an essential oil combined with a carrier oil and massaged into your skin or added to a bath may help to relax and de-stress after a hectic day, you still want to consult your healthcare provider before using essential oils for any condition.

Ultimately, aromatherapy is an excellent adjunct strategy and not a replacement to more proven techniques. If you are experiencing anxiety disorder symptoms that concern you, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider and alternative sources to learn how to effectively tackle the symptoms.

Here are eight popular researched backed scents, with tips on how to use them.

  1. Lavender

One of the best-known essential oils in aromatherapy, lavender oil is known for its calming effects on the body and mind and ability to lessen anxiety. During a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, for instance, participants were exposed to a stressor prior to completing a memory task. Those who inhaled a lavender aroma prior to being stressed performed better than those who inhaled a placebo aroma.

Furthermore, in a study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice, aromatherapy using a 3 percent lavender oil spray on clothing was found to be effective in reducing work-related stress for three to four days.

Lavender oil can be found in a variety of aromatherapy products, including bath salts and massage oil. Another way to take advantage of the soothing scent of lavender: sipping lavender-infused herbal tea, which is sold in many natural-foods stores.

Overall, lavender oil has a calming effect on the body and is very useful in reducing stress.

2. Bergamot

Bergamot essential oil is widely used in aromatherapy and is what gives Earl Grey tea its unique scent. Sourced from the peel of a citrus fruit known as Citrus bergamia, this essential oil may help to lessen your stress.

While research on the effects of bergamot essential oil is fairly limited, some studies show that the oil may help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

For example, a 2017 study published in Phytotherapy Research found that exposure to the aroma of bergamot essential oil for 15 minutes improved participants’ positive feelings in the waiting room of a mental health treatment center.

Bergamot essential oil may also improve negative emotions and fatigue and lower saliva cortisol levels (one of your body’s main stress hormone), according to a 2015 study.

When using bergamot essential oil for stress relief, the oil should be combined with a carrier oil (such as sesame, jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado) before being applied sparingly to the skin or added to a bath. The carrier oil you choose should be one ideal for your own constitution, energy type, and history (I can help with that; go HERE). You can also inhale the soothing scent by using an aromatherapy diffuser.

3. Lemongrass

For natural relief of anxiety, some individuals turn to aromatherapy involving the use of lemongrass essential oil obtained from the herb Cymbopogon citratus or lemongrass. Inhaling the scent of the oil (or applying it to skin sparingly after combining it with a carrier oil) is thought to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety symptoms.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that participants exposed to lemongrass essential oil had an immediate reduction in anxiety and tension and recovered quickly from an anxiety-inducing situation compared to those who inhaled a control aroma (tea tree oil) or a placebo.

4. Ylang-ylang

Preliminary research also suggests that ylang-ylang essential oil may be of some benefit to people with high blood pressure often seen in stressed or anxious patients. For instance, a small study published in 2012 found that breathing in the scent of an aromatherapy blend containing ylang ylang essential oil helped decrease blood pressure and stress-hormone levels.

While it is too soon to recommend ylang-ylang essential oil for blood pressure control, incorporating aromatherapy with ylang-ylang into your self-care routine might offer stress-reducing benefits and anxiolytic effects that could enhance your overall health.

6. Orange

Need to unwind? Preliminary research suggests that breathing in the sweet aroma of orange essential oil may help alleviate your anxiety. For example, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that participants who inhaled sweet orange essential oil did not demonstrate increased anxiety or tension during an anxiety-inducing situation, unlike those who inhaled a control aroma (tea tree oil) or a placebo.

Another type of orange essential oil known as bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) was found to reduce anxiety during a simulated public speaking event, according to a 2017 study.

7. Lemon

Lemon essential oil, which is sourced from the leaves of the lemon plant, has been found in preliminary studies in animals to have sedative and anxiety-reducing properties.

Rich in linalool (a compound found in lemons, oranges, basil, mangos, grapes, lavender, and other foods and flowers), practitioners of aromatherapy often use lemon essential oil to relieve stress, improve mood, promote sleep, and ease symptoms of depression.

In the UK, personal aromatherapy inhaler devices, with lemon essential oil as one of the scents, have been with cancer patients to promote relaxation and relieve nausea.

8. Yuzu

A scent long used in aromatherapy, Japanese yuzu essential oil is sometimes touted as a natural solution for stress relief.

It is thought that breathing in the citrus fragrance of this essential oil can suppress sympathetic nervous system activity (responsible for the body’s acute stress response) and, thus, promote relaxation.

Ten minutes of yuzu scent inhalation was found to decrease salivary chromogranin A (an indicator of stress and sympathetic nervous system activity) and negative emotional stress, according to a small study.

In another study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, inhalation of yuzu essential oil had an anxiolytic effect in mothers caring for sick children at a pediatric clinic.

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