12 Essential Oils for Anxiety that Work (with How to Use Them)

About 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorder, making this the most common psychological problem in the country [1].

While it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed out from time to time, if these negative emotions become persistent, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Anxiety disorder is characterized by chronic and overwhelming fear and worry that disrupt normal functioning [2].

It comes in five types: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) [2].

All these categories can be treated with medications and psychological therapy [2].

However, if you have not been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, or if you feel you’re not yet ready to take medications or undergo counseling, the best alternative would be to use natural anti-anxiety essential oils such as the ones mentioned below:

1. Lavender

Aromatherapy using lavender oil is considered one of the most effective forms of mental relaxation [3].

A team of researchers from Japan examined the relaxation effects of lavender oil on 30 men ages 24 to 40 years [3].

Results show that inhalation of lavender oil diluted in water induced relaxation in the participants, reducing serum cortisol and improving blood circulation [3].

Many other studies have been done to probe lavender’s anxiolytic effects in various situations, and most found positive results [4, 5, 6].

In one clinical trial, it was found that a lavender oil capsule preparation worked just as well as a medication commonly prescribed for anxiety [4].

The only difference is that lavender oil has no sedative effects, which means that it has no potential to be abused [4].

In another experiment where participants were asked to watch anxiety-provoking film, lavender oil capsule successfully lowered stress and heartbeat rate [5].

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 drops of lavender oil
  • 20 ml of hot water

Recommended Directions:

  • Add lavender to a bowl of hot water.
  • Inhale the steam for 30 minutes.
  • Repeat remedy as needed.

2. Clary Sage

Emerging studies have proven that clary sage can be beneficial for those suffering from pathological conditions [7].

It’s also packed with omega 3 fatty acids and the monoterpene linalool, which are known to have positive effects on people’s mental wellbeing [7].

These fatty acids can help lighten up the mood, and make you feel good about yourself.

A study performed in the Ariel University in Israel confirmed the anxiolytic effects of clary sage [7].

Researchers explain that animal subjects whose mothers received this oil from pregnancy to conception demonstrated less “anxiety-like behavior” than those who received sunflower oil [7].

If you’re pregnant, you can use clary sage to safely ward off anxiety attacks without worrying about harming your little one.

Another study noted that among the four essential oils tested, clary sage has the “strongest anti-stressor effect” [8].

Its antidepressant mode of action works by regulating certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for mood regulation [8].

These include dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin, among others [8].

What You’ll Need:

  • 10 drops of clary sage oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Put clary sage oil on a handkerchief.
  • Smell the handkerchief whenever feeling anxious.

3. Rosemary

Widely recognized as a “culinary aromatic” and an herbal remedy, rosemary is also said to have a positive impact on the brain’s neurons, which in turn can improve mood disorders [9].

This has been proven in a 2013 study, which found that its polyphenols namely rosmarinic acid, luteolin, and carnosic acid regulated the neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin [9].

In another study involving graduating nursing students, it was reported that rosemary oil reduced stress and anxiety as proven in lower scores in anxiety measure and pulse rate, among others [9].

Controlled animal trials also yielded similar positive results.

Scientists from Brazil tested rosemary’s anti-anxiety effects on animal subjects through behavioral models such as and tail suspension test (TST) and forced swimming test (FST), and yielded positive results [10].

A different team of Brazilian researchers report that this oil reduced hyperactivity and increased exploratory behavior in mice [11].

Ursolic acid, the active compound in rosemary oil, is said to be responsible for its antidepressant actions [12].

Rosemary’s therapeutic application for anxiety, stress and depression is indeed well-documented in scientific literature.

What You’ll Need:

  • 15 drops of rosemary oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour oils in a diffuser.
  • Use diffuser to fill the room with rosemary aroma.
  • Do this daily until condition improves.

4. Bergamot

A member of the Rutaceae family, bergamot is a hybrid fruit of lemon and bitter orange [13].

Its oil extract is used in various cosmetic, perfume and confectionary products [13].

Aromatherapy with bergamot is said to improve the mood as well as alleviate symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety, thanks to its volatile components that affect regulation of mood and cognition [13].

Several experiments confirm these claims [14, 15, 16].

In a Japanese research, 41 females were asked to inhale either bergamot oil or water vapor for 15 minutes [14].

It was found that bergamot has positive effects on the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety [14].

In a study conducted in Taiwan, elementary school teachers working in a highly stressful environment were requested to inhale bergamot oil for 10 minutes [16].

Results show that blood pressure levels and heart rate decreased with the use of this oil [16].

Researchers recommend the use of bergamot oil for people who work in stress-inducing environments [16].

What You’ll Need:

  • 20 drops of bergamot oil
  • Bath water

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour bergamot oil in bath water.
  • Soak in the bath for 30 minutes.
  • Use this remedy once or twice a day.

5. Frankincense

Historical records show that frankincense was a part of many important cultural and religious ceremonies during the ancient times [17].

It is also highly prized for its medicinal value and its ability to treat wounds, inflammation, bacterial infections, and even cancer [17].

Frankincense can also be beneficial for those who are constantly feeling stressed and anxious.

According to a 2015 study, this essential oil has significant anxiolytic effects in Swiss albino mice subjects [18].

What You’ll Need:

  • 20 drops of frankincense oil
  • 1 cup of almond oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Combine the two oils.
  • Get a whole body massage and ask therapist to use this oil mixture.
  • You can do this twice a month.

6. Orange

Researchers from Brazil evaluated the impact of orange essential oil on Wistar rats and reported that exposure to its aroma for five minutes resulted in acute anxiolytic effect in the animal subjects [19].

Similar studies were also conducted on humans.

In 2012, scientists asked 40 male participants to inhale orange oil, tea tree oil and water [20].

Anxiolytic effects were observed in those that were exposed to orange oil, justifying its folkloric use for anxiety and depression [20].

In another study, it was reported that ambient orange odor in dental clinics worked wonders in improving mood and reducing anxiety in patients as they waited for their dental appointment [21].

You can just imagine how anxious dental patients can be while waiting for their turn in the dentist’s office.

If orange oil can work wonders for them, it can surely do the same thing for you when you’re feeling anxious.

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 drops of orange oil
  • Cool water

Recommended Directions:

  • Soak towel in water.
  • Pour orange oil into the towel.
  • Rub towel gently all over the body.
  • Take deep breaths to inhale the aroma.
  • Do this twice a day until anxiety disappears.

7. Lemongrass

The bioactive components in lemongrass have demonstrated valuable pharmacological effects [22].

This makes lemongrass essential oil a “promising candidate” for treating various chronic conditions [22].

A study published in the Phytomedicine Journal reports that lemongrass oil orally administered to Swiss mice induced a hypnotic and sedative effect, increasing duration of sleep and reducing stress and anxiety [23].

It’s important for people who suffer from anxiety to get sufficient rest.

Sleep deprivation will only worsen their condition.

Brazilian scientists explain that lemongrass oil’s ability to reduce anxiety may be due to its effects on the brain’s neurotransmitters [24].

It regulates neurotransmitters that are related to mood and emotional wellness.

What You’ll Need:

  • 6 drops of lemongrass oil
  • 1 cup of organic lotion

Recommended Directions:

  • Mix oil and lotion.
  • Apply mixture all over the body.
  • Put a small amount on your palms.
  • Cup your hands in front of your face and inhale the scent.
  • Repeat remedy several times a day when feeling anxious.

8. Rose

Another essential oil that you can use to relieve anxiety and stress is rose oil.

According to a study done on rats, rose oil works as effectively as diazepam, an anxiolytic medication commonly prescribed for anxiety patients [25].

Because this one is natural, it doesn’t have the same side effects.

In a clinical trial performed on humans, inhalation of this essential oil results in a “more calm, more relaxed and less alert state” [26].

Out of the 40 volunteers who participated in this study, those who topically applied rose oil had lower blood pressure level, breathing rate, pulse rate, body temperature and blood oxygen saturation [26].

Japanese scientists identified phenethyl alcohol and citronellol as the active components responsible for rose oil’s anti-conflict effects [27].

What You’ll Need:

  • 25 drops of rose oil
  • Warm bath water

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour oil to your bath water.
  • Submerge in the bath.
  • Stay for half an hour.
  • Do this once a day when feeling anxious.

9. Angelica

Light pale in color with a hint of “floral woody flavor” angelica oil is extracted from a plant that’s commonly found in the higher grounds in India [28].

Although not as popular as lavender or rosemary, angelica oil also has profound effects on a person’s emotional well-being.

In a study conducted by Chinese scientists, it was revealed that angelica exhibited anxiolytic effects similar to diazepam [29].

Its anti-anxiety effects inhibited stress-induced hyperthermia among rats, as proven in behavioral models such as plus-maze test [29].

A follow-up study done a year later by the same group of researchers showed that angelica oil’s wide range of anxiolytic effects can also benefit those suffering from social anxiety disorder [30]

This oil has been confirmed to have the ability to reduce aggressive behavior and encourage social interaction [30].

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 drops of angelica oil
  • 1 bowl of hot water

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour angelica oil to a bowl of hot water.
  • Inhale the steam.
  • Repeat a few times each day until anxiety subsides.

10. Bitter Orange

For many years, bitter orange has always been a popular alternative remedy for anxiety, insomnia and epilepsy [31].

This can be attributed to the effects of bitter orange on the actions of the central nervous system [32].

The phytochemicals in bitter orange, namely limonene and mircene have been found to have relaxation and sedative effects on the central nervous system, reports a 2008 study [33].

It’s no wonder this oil can be used to treat anxiety caused by various triggers and situations.

Results derived from a 2013 clinical trial show that it even works in creating a “state of calmness” in women during the first stage of labor [34].

The great thing about this oil is that it’s safe to use for pregnant women.

There are other essential oils that are not, and can cause premature labor or harm to the unborn fetus.

What You’ll Need:

  • 10 drops of bitter orange oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour oil in a handkerchief.
  • Inhale scent from the handkerchief several times a day.

11. Lemon Balm

In a study that can be found in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, it was reported that lemon balm has significant behavioral effects on rat subjects [35].

During the 10-day course of treatment, it was observed that the rats that were administered with lemon balm had decreased levels of anxiety, as measured in tests such as forced swimming, elevated plus-maze and open-field tests [35].

It was also noted that lemon balm has the same level of efficacy as diazepam [35].

French and American researchers explain that the active compounds in lemon balm such as ursolic acid, rosmarinic acid, and oleanolic acid inhibit the GABA-T activities and increased GABA levels in the brain [36].

These clinical findings show that lemon balm is a promising alternative treatment to anxiety disorders.

Even if you have not been diagnosed with this condition, you can use this oil to calm yourself down during stressful situations.

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 drops of lemon balm oil
  • 1 teaspoon of jojoba oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Put the two oils in a bowl.
  • Mix well.
  • Pour oil blend in a glass jar.
  • Whenever you’re feeling anxious, pour a few drops of the oil blend on a piece of cloth.
  • Put the cloth on top of your forehead and lie down.
  • Rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Sniff into the scent of the oil blend.
  • Repeat this remedy several times a day.

12. Valerian

Valerian essential oil is well-known for its ability to induce sleep and treat mild to moderate cases of insomnia.

This can come in handy when anxiety is keeping you up at night, and preventing you from getting your much-needed rest.

It also has significant anxiolytic properties that you’d want to take advantage of.

According to a 2010 study published in the Phytomedicine Journal, the active constituent of valerian known as valerenic acid regulates the GABAA-ergic system, which in turn produces anti-anxiety effects similar to those of benzodiazepine drugs [37].

Similar other studies validate these findings, indicating that valerian oil is highly effective in treating both insomnia and anxiety [38, 39].

A 2006 study also makes note that it’s even more effective when combined with lemon balm oil [39].

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 drops of valerian oil
  • 2 drops of lemon balm oil
  • 1 bowl of water

Recommended Directions:

  • Put water in a pot, and bring to a boil.
  • Transfer hot water to a bowl.
  • Add valerian and lemon balm oils to the bowl of water.
  • Inhale the steam coming from the hot water.
  • Alternatively, put valerian drops on a handkerchief.
  • Smell the scent whenever you’re feeling anxious.
  • Put this handkerchief on your pillow at night before going to sleep.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, or you’re just feeling anxious from time to time, you can find relief from these safe and effective essential oil remedies.

Just make sure that you follow the instructions properly so as not to put yourself at risk of skin irritation and other unpleasant side effects.