These 11 Essential Oils Can Help You Beat Stress
Aromatherapy essential oils are considered good for stress, providing a calming effect when they're incorporated into your regular routine—though they're not a cure-all. Mariza Snyder, DC, wellness practitioner and author of The Essential Oils Hormone Solution, says that while oils can lower your cortisol levels and support your body, finding other ways to relax is key. "Focus on proper nutrition and exercise and implementing self-care strategies," she says.
In other words, they shouldn't be the only go-to items in your self-soothing toolkit—you may also want to try mindfulness meditation, any one of the great yoga apps out there, or even seeing a therapist. Still, it's definitely worth trying essential oils for stress and anxiety relief, too, given that fans will tell you that oils can help with everything from seasonal allergies to getting better sleep. Plus, they're affordable, non-pharmaceutical—and by and large, happen to smell terrific.
Here's what to know about using essential oils for stress, and the best ways to apply them.
How do you use essential oils, exactly?
"The best way to reduce anxiety and stress with essential oils is through inhalation," says Dawn Langley-Brady, RN, a certified clinical aromatherapist and nursing instructor at the Augusta University College of Nursing.
One effective way to breathe in essential oils is through a diffuser, which disperses a scent into the air while you sit back and watch (or, smell) the magic happen. There are a few different types of diffusers, and once you've decided which one is right for you, sites like Amazon offer a wealth of options.
Ultrasonic diffusers have become popular in part because they double as a humidifier, making them a great option for the winter months. You'll typically fill them with water, and then add a couple drops of oil in before you switch it on to inhale the soothing steam. Many come with either an automatic safety shutoff or a built-in timer, so you can fall asleep knowing it'll sleep soon, too.
Ebulizing diffusers are a powerful alternative to ultrasonic diffusers, able to fill even larger spaces with a strong atomized scent. Nebulizers don't use water, just undiluted oil, so this may be a preferable option for those who live in damper homes and would prefer not to add more moisture. While they do tend toward a higher price point than ultrasonic diffusers, they offer a more potent aroma.
Evaporative diffusers use a pad or a filter to disperse the oil, which is circulated by an internal fan. That makes them a louder option, but good for those who want a humidifier without the mist.
"Diffusers are all the rage, but they're not appropriate if you have infants, young children, or pets in your household," says Langley-Brady. Per the ASPCA, there is some concern that exposure to certain diffused oils can cause depression, unsteadiness on feet, and even low body temperature in animals; they recommend that bird owners avoid diffusers altogether. Though the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians haven't issued advice on the topic, the New York Times cites experts who recommend against using a diffuser around an infant six months or younger.
As an alternative, Langley-Brady suggests placing oils in a personal inhaler, a necklace, or even on a cotton ball.
Another tranquilizing option: massage them into your skin. "Simply mix a few drops of an essential oil in an ounce of a carrier oil (e.g. jojoba, sesame, coconut, sweet almond, olive) to produce a relaxing blend," Langley-Brady says. "Just be careful not to use the oils on sensitive skin, open wounds, or get it into your eyes."
Hope Gillerman, founder of H. Gillerman Organics and author of Essential Oils Every Day, recommends inhaling essential oils by putting a drop or two on a tissue or on the palm of your hand. Hold it up to your nose for five slow, quiet breaths. "When you inhale like this you become conscious of your breath, which is the starting point for every tried-and-true stress reduction method," Gillerman explains.
And, without further ado, the best types of essential oils for stress relief...
Produced primarily in France, Langley-Brady says this oil has a floral scent with woody undertones. "Lavender essential oil has anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing properties, and has been well studied throughout the world," she says. In particular, a 2017 study showed that lavender oil aromatherapy can produce a "calming effect without sedation" which can be beneficial for your mental health. Since it combines well with other oils, try adding a few drops to a diffuser, massage oils, or body lotions.
For something stronger, look for Lasea (or Silexan), an over-the-counter capsule that’s been shown to be as effective as the anti-anxiety medication Lorazepam (Ativan) in clinical trials.
Snyder notes that bergamot offers a "subtle citrus-like fragrance, with a rich, complex floral quality." Bergamot also has a clean, spicy nose to it, making it the perfect oil to blend with floral oils like lavender, clary sage and jasmine. The scent is soothing, but will leave you invigorated at the same time. In fact, a 2015 study done on women in Japan showed that bergamot oil aromatherapy helped to improve negative emotions and fatigue. Rather than apply it to the skin, diffuse it. One word of caution: Bergamot is phytotoxic, meaning that severe burning can occur if you go into the sun with it on your skin.
Mandarin is more than just a piece of citrus. Studies have found that this sweet, citrusy scent offers calming benefits thanks to its anxiolytic (a.k.a. anti-anxiety) properties, Langley-Brady notes. If you're having trouble sleeping this essential oil can also help promote restful sleep. It may also help to lift your mood and overall sense of well-being, she adds.
Gillerman says this earthier, woodsy aroma will stick with you for hours. Sandalwood's gentle aroma can help you feel more at peace after each breath. And it'll remind you to inhale and exhale more deeply more often. Her serene True Relaxation combines Sandalwood with many of the oils on this list, including lavender, vetiver, red mandarin, and Clary Sage.
Roman Chamomile Oil
You've probably brewed a cup of chamomile tea to wind down. But if tea didn't do the trick, try the oil version of the herbaceous and slightly fruity scent, Langley-Brady suggests. Chamomile may even aid with anxiety and depression, according to a research study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which found that "chamomile may provide clinically meaningful antidepressant activity."
When used in essential oils, rose doesn't smell exactly like the bouquet kind—but it can similarly bring you some peace of mind. The strong floral scent of rose essential oil is known to be calming and comforting, Langley-Brady says. "Since the rose is linked to love and the heart chakra in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, rose can be especially beneficial for those experiencing loneliness or grief," she explains. Studies demonstrate that rose has significant calming effects on the central nervous system.
Ylang Ylang Oil
With a slightly sweet, island fruit scent (think pineapple!), Ylang Ylang may help promote a sense of peacefulness, reduce stress, and even help improve self-esteem, according to studies. "It also has skin-balancing effects and has a very profound calming effect on the nervous system, especially if you use it as soon as you start to feel stressed or anxious," Snyder notes. The oil is touted as an aphrodisiac, making it a soothing—and sexy—addition to massage blends.
"An ancient oil of Biblical fame, Frankincense offers a spicy, woody aroma with amazing calming effects," Snyder says. It may support the immune system and enhance circulation while helping you feel generally more zen. Add a few drops to a diffuser or massage a couple drops at the bottom your feet to help balance your mood, she suggests.
Clary Sage Oil
"During that time of a month, Clary Sage will be a girl's best friend," Snyder says. A sweet oil that has herbal notes, Clary Sage can be simply massaged right into the abdomen to help you feel calmer and promote relaxation during your cycle. Or, dilute a few drops in a roller bottle and dab some on your pulse points when the pressure is on, she suggests.
A common ingredient in French perfumes, this oil tends to smell like an expensive, floral-based eau de parfum, Gillerman notes. Plus, it's very effective in reducing stress and promoting sleep: "It can calm you so deeply you will even feel the effect on your sleep long after use." Gillerman suggests combining it with other oils like Sandalwood.
Some people use lemongrass in their cooking, but studies have shown that the aromatherapy oil extracted from the leaves and stalks of lemongrass may provide a whole host of health benefits. A 2014 study published results showing the oil's anti-inflammatory benefits, while a 2015 study showed that those who received a massage with lemongrass and sweet almond oil "showed a greater reduction in diastolic blood pressure."
View the original story on OprahMag.com: These 11 Essential Oils Can Help You Beat Stress.