Aromatherapy and Anxiety

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Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is a therapist, researcher and author with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Doctorate in Naturopathy. Dr. Fredricks works ...Read More

Do you wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to aromatherapy for anxiety? Find out how it works, whether it’s safe, and if it might be right for you.

Table of Contents

  • Understanding Aromatherapy for Anxiety
  • Benefits of Essential Oils
  • Using Aromatherapy
  • Safety and Professional Guidance
  • FAQs and Resources
  • Concluding Advice

Key Facts

  • Aromatherapy for anxiety is the use of essential oils to alleviate symptoms.
  • Essential oils help reduce anxiety by inducing calm, boosting your mood, or helping you feel sleepy.
  • Aromatherapy is generally considered safe when used with best practices and under professional guidance. 

You might be interested in learning about aromatherapy for anxiety if you’re looking for natural remedies. Certain herbs have been used in traditional medicine as natural remedies for anxiety for centuries, which has prompted the modern exploration of their use for anxiety relief with aromatherapy.


Randi Fredricks, Ph.D., states, “Aromatherapy is believed to rejuvenate both the mind and the body. One of the first reported uses of essential oils was among the Egyptians, who used them in massage and bathing. In medieval times, essential oils were used to fight the plague. In the 1930s, aromatherapy became a specialized branch of herbal medicine.”

Understanding Aromatherapy for Anxiety

Essential oils used in aromatherapy for anxiety are specifically chosen for their therapeutic properties that help alleviate anxiety symptoms. The question is whether or not they’re effective.

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Quick Answer: Aromatherapy for Anxiety Relief

While some past studies have given contradictory results, one comprehensive 2023 study concluded that essential oils may be effective in reducing anxiety, with jasmine and citrus being found to be the most effective in reducing certain symptoms associated with anxiety. [1]

Introduction to Aromatherapy and Anxiety

Anxiety, as a medical condition, is a sense of worry, fear, or dread that is disruptive to day-to-day life. Aromatherapy is the use of certain essential oils to help ease symptoms associated with anxiety, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.

Essential Oils and Their Benefits

Some essential oils have been found to have superior anxiety-reducing, or anxiolytic, properties compared to others. Many of them reduce anxiety by helping to create a sense of calm, boosting your mood, or increasing drowsiness.

Best Essential Oils for Anxiety

You can use the following essential oils by themselves or in combination:

  • Jasmine: It’s believed to promote a sense of well-being without inducing drowsiness and was ranked as the most effective in a recent study. [1]
  • Citrus: Citrus reduced both state and trait anxiety inventory scores in the same study. [1]
  • Lavender: Its calming effects are thought to come from impacting the part of the brain that controls emotions, called the limbic system. It has shown efficacy in reducing anxiety in multiple studies. [1]
  • Rose: Oils from rose petals lowered levels of anxiety in a small study. [2]

Essential oils that reduce anxiety by helping you feel calm and inducing drowsiness include:

  • Valerian
  • Jatamansi/spikenard
  • Chamomile
  • Vetiver/khus
  • Sweet basil
  • Geranium

Essential oils that relieve anxiety by boosting your mood are:

  • Lemon balm/Melissa
  • Bergamot
  • Ylang ylang

Other anxiety-reducing essential oils:

  • Sandalwood
  • Frankincense 
  • Patchouli
  • Vetiver
  • Clary sage
  • Sweet marjoram

Quality Matters: Selecting the Best Essential Oils

Because essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, you need to do your own research to find high-quality oils. Look for the following on the label:

  • Only one ingredient
  • An indication that it’s 100 percent pure essential oil
  • The Latin name of the plant
  • The country in which the plant was grown

Avoid any that use the term “fragrance oils” or have additional ingredients.

Mechanisms and Practical Application of Aromatherapy

Essential oils are easy to use and are believed to work because of the scientific interaction of aroma and your brain.

How Aromatherapy Works for Anxiety

Aromatherapy is thought to work because scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves to the brain, specifically to the amygdala, where emotions are controlled.

Using Aromatherapy at Home

Best practices include two methods:

  1. Dilute essential oils with a carrier oil and apply directly to your body by rubbing it into the skin.
  2. In a well-ventilated area, apply oils to absorbent materials so they can be inhaled repeatedly over a period of time, even all day.

Safety and Professional Guidance in Aromatherapy

Even though essential oils are all-natural, there are still some precautions to take and times when professional guidance is needed.

Safety First: Precautions and Risks

Essential oils should not be ingested, and some are not safe for inhalation by children, pets, or pregnant and breastfeeding persons.

Because of the possibility of side effects on other members of a household, Johns Hopkins recommends against using essential oils in diffusers that release the oil in a vapor. [3] Side effects can include:

  • Asthma attacks
  • Allergic reactions
  • Irritation
  • Headaches

Professional Aromatherapy: When to Seek Expert Help

You should seek professional guidance if your anxiety is disrupting your sleep or becoming unmanageable. Consult with your medical professional for any concerns about the safety of essential oil use.

Enhancing Aromatherapy’s Effects

If you’re suffering from anxiety, aromatherapy is just one method to help alleviate your symptoms. Essential oils are even more effective when used in conjunction with other methods for reducing anxiety.

Complementary Practices: Enhancing Aromatherapy’s Effects

Other practices you can use in combination with aromatherapy for anxiety are talk therapy, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga.

Customizing Your Aromatherapy Experience

You can combine various essential oils for a custom blend that best meets your needs. You can also consult with a professional aromatherapist for advice on an essential oil blend that’s tailored to you.

Additional Considerations and Resources

Here are some commonly asked questions and resources for support.

FAQs: Addressing Common Concerns

Are essential oils safe?

As long as you’re diluting essential oils when applying them to the skin and using them in a well-ventilated area, essential oil usage is considered safe for most people. Consult with your medical care professional for any further concerns.

Where should you apply essential oils?

After diluting essential oils with carrier oil, they can be rubbed into pulse points or anywhere on the body after a bath or shower, even on your feet.

Do doctors recommend aromatherapy?

Most doctors don’t prescribe aromatherapy for anxiety because it doesn’t have rigorous research proving its effectiveness that medications do. However, your medical professional is unlikely to advise you to avoid using essential oils unless you are at risk of common side effects, pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Finding Support: Aromatherapy Communities

You can find out more about aromatherapy by connecting with aromatherapy communities through forums, online groups, or organizations, such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). [4]

Concluding Advice: Professional Consultation

A personalized aromatherapy plan might be just the tool you need to add to your arsenal of methods to keep anxiety symptoms at bay. While aromatherapy is safe for most people, we encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider to make sure it’s right for you. Get expert advice and help for your anxiety today.

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