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10 Essential Oils For Stress

Written by 
Angela Myers
Reviewed by 
Melissa Frost, NP

Article at a glance

  • Essential oils are commonly used for their perceived physical and emotional benefits, including stress relief. 
  • Some essential oils may be more effective at relieving stress and improving overall mood than others, though more research is needed on the effects of all essential oils.
  • Essential oils are not a regulated treatment for stress. Because of this, it’s essential to research the effects of different plant extracts and to purchase from high-quality manufacturers. 

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts used for their healing properties. Supporters of this holistic treatment point to the various physical, emotional, and pharmacological (chemical) benefits of essential oils. Among others, these include reducing stress and symptoms of anxiety. If considering essential oils as a stress relief tool, some oils may be more effective than others. 

Essential oils aren’t regulated by the FDA so it’s especially important to research different options and choose high-quality essential oils with specific plants that may reduce stress. To make that research easier, we compiled a list of the best essential oils for stress.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are plant extracts that have been distilled or mechanically pressed into an oil. The extracts retain the smell, flavor, and health benefits of the original plant. Often, manufacturers press or distill many plants for one bottle of essential oil. 

Many people use essential oils to treat different physical ailments and mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, low appetite, and insomnia. Often, essential oils are placed into a diffuser and the user inhales the scent; a practice known as aromatherapy. They can also be applied to the skin or placed in a bath, though additional safety practices must be followed for these two methods.

Do essential oils actually relieve stress?

While there is mixed research surrounding the correlation between essential oils and stress reduction, a meta-analysis of 25 studies published between 1990 and 2019 found that essential oils can reduce anxiety. Other studies support their effects on anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, though more research is needed for conclusive results.

Studies on how essential oils impact stress suggest inhaling certain essential oils calms the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fear and other emotions. This calming effect reduces anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions in the limbic system and other parts of the brain. It’s also possible to receive a similar effect after rubbing essential oils into the skin, though proper dilution must occur. 

When essential oils are used properly, they most likely won’t increase stress and can create a calming atmosphere. They may decrease stress, especially if one of the top essential oils for mental health and stress relief is used. 

Best Essential Oils for Stress

In a pharmacy, there are plenty of over-the-counter medications. They don’t all treat the same symptoms and can’t be used interchangeably. Essential oils work the same way, meaning some types reduce stress and others provide different health benefits. When purchasing essential oils to reduce stress, these ten scents may be particularly effective. 

Lavender

Lavender essential oil is perhaps the best known oil for stress relief. It has been used as a calming scent for centuries, and recent studies support this claim. Lavender oil appears to calm the central nervous system, reducing anxiety. A 2013 study also suggests that lavender may help regulate mood, lower high blood pressure, and act as a preventative agent to maintain brain health

Jasmine 

Known for its floral scent, jasmine oil may be the most effective oil at reducing stress hormone production. In fact, a 2023 study ranked it as the best essential oil for those with generalized anxiety disorder and high levels of stress. Jasmine oil inhalation may also reduce high blood pressure caused by anxiety. 

Bergamot 

Bergamot, a citrus fruit often used in essential oils, may relieve stress as well. In a 2017 study, bergamot essential oil was used in aromatherapy treatments for patients at a mental health treatment center. 15 minutes of aromatherapy with bergamot essential oil improved the mood and stress level of participants when compared to the control group. 

Clary Sage

Clary sage, an herb native to the Mediterranean, has been used medicinally for centuries. Often, clary sage essential oil is used to reduce menstrual cramps and labor pain due to its effect on the autonomic nervous system. Recent research reveals clary sage oil may also calm the autonomic nervous system and limbic system, reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

Chamomile

Chamomile tea is a natural remedy for stress, but this flower is one of the most popular essential oils to promote relaxation. For centuries, people have used chamomile essential oil to treat hay fever, inflammation, insomnia, and other types of pain. Chamomile extract therapy also reduces stress, especially a lack of sleep or chronic pain caused the stress.

Peppermint

Peppermint oil may help reduce anxiety and symptoms of stress. Specifically, peppermint may be good for reducing chronic pain and anxiety caused by a physical ailment. It also calms the body before a painful procedure. In 2019, a study found essential oil diffusers with peppermint calmed the anxiety and pain of patients receiving an intravenous catheterization. 

Rose

While commonly known for its decorative purposes and its sweet aroma, the rose may contain healing properties for the body and mind. Research suggests that, when pressed into an essential oil, it acts as an antibacterial and antioxidant agent. Rose oil also may be used as a relaxant and to cultivate positive feelings, thanks to its physiological and psychological calming effects. 

Orange

While orange is a great addition to your plate, orange essential oil also provides anti-stress benefits. However, not all citrus fruits provide the same relaxing effect. A 2018 study suggests sweet oranges and ylang ylang, another type of citrus fruit, may be more effective at relieving symptoms related to stress. 

Note: When searching for a citrus essential oil to lessen anxiety, avoid neroli oil. This oil comes from the bitter orange tree. While neroli oil can help with chronic pain, it probably won’t reduce stress levels. 

Lemon

That same 2018 study suggests that another citrus fruit, the lemon, may also be used to reduce anxiety. A few drops of lemon essential oil mixed with other essential oils, like lavender oil, may reduce stress and lower blood pressure. 

Frankincense

In ancient times, frankincense oil was used as an aromatic resin for religious and healing purposes. People still utilize this essential oil today, claiming it is a natural mood booster and stress reliever. Advocates claim that frankincense essential oil calms the nervous system and reduces corticosterone levels.

How to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are a general category for extracts with highly concentrated samples of plants, and there are many ways to utilize them. The most common is aromatherapy, when someone buys an essential oil in liquid format, diffuses it, and inhales the scent. 

It’s also possible to apply essential oils to the skin directly or to place them in a bath. If someone chooses the latter two options, they must mix the essential oil with a barrier substance in a process referred to as diffusion. Barrier substances include certain lotions, aloe cream, and carrier oils, like tea tree oil, almond oil, and coconut oil. If not diffused, even a few drops of essential oil applied topically or in a bath is harmful to the skin. 

Note: Since essential oils are not regulated by the FDA or another government organization, a doctor cannot prescribe essential oils. They are also not covered under private health insurance or Medicaid. 

Customize Stress Relief

When stress-relieving essential oils are mixed, they can provide even more benefits. To customize your stress relief, consider DIYing the following blends: 

  • Lemon and bergamot for anxiety relief and improved mood
  • Frankincense and chamomile for a grounding, calming effect
  • Peppermint and lavender for stress relief and better sleep
  • Jasmine and ylang ylang for anxiety reduction and to boost positive feelings

Essential Oils Safety

Using essential oils isn’t without its risks. Often, essential oil diffusers are safe to use, though diffusers must be cleaned regularly. You also want to purchase from a trusted company, as the CDC has recalled essential oil diffusers with harmful bacteria in the past.

To use essential oils safely in the bath or directly on the skin, dilute essential oils first. Most product manufacturers addressed safety on the essential oil label or their website, making it essential to read instructions before using a new oil. Only diluted essential oils should be applied to the skin or placed in water.

Essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, meaning not all are created equal. When purchasing a new essential oil, make sure to choose one from a trustworthy brand. Mass-market options may include less potent oils or synthetic oils, which won’t provide the same benefits as more potent oils. 

Other Natural Stress Relievers to Try

Essential oil inhalation is one of many holistic health tools to manage stress. Exercise, eating a whole foods diet, and mindfulness practices like meditation and breathwork also help reduce stress. 

If someone is suffering from a case of severe generalized anxiety disorder or another more serious issue, using essential oils and natural remedies may not be enough. In these scenarios, talk to a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist. They can help determine the best stress management technique, such as medication or talk therapy. The optimal solution may also be a combination of natural remedies, prescription medication, and/​or therapy.

Mental Health Resources 

There are many resources available that can help you, a family member, a friend, or anyone else who may need mental health support. Some resources include:

Therapy may also be effective. To find a therapist, visit: 

For immediate assistance, call, text, or visit 1–800–273‑8255 (TALK). Those who are hearing impaired should call 1–800–799‑4889 instead. Other emergency mental health resources include:

FAQ

What is the number one essential oil for anxiety?

There isn’t a single best essential oil to relieve anxiety. Each essential oil may be effective for different anxiety symptoms. If someone is anxious because of a lack of sleep, chamomile oil may be a good option while lavender essential oil calms anxiety caused by disruptions to the central nervous system. When using essential oils for anxiety, it’s important to note there is little research into their efficacy.

What is the best essential oil for mental health?

Many essential oils may be beneficial for mental health. The most effective include:

  • lavender oil
  • bergamot essential oil
  • lemon essential oil
  • peppermint oil
  • rose oil
  • ylang ylang oil
  • orange essential oil
  • frankincense essential oil

However, more peer-reviewed research or government-funded research investigating the efficacy of essential oils for mental health is needed. Other essential oils that are good for mental health include jasmine essential oil, lemon oil, sweet orange essential oil, and chamomile oil.

Where do you rub essential oils for stress?

If rubbing essential oils onto the skin, dilute the substance first with a barrier oil, lotion, or aloe cream. Consider consulting a holistic practitioner too, since applying undiluted essential oils to your skin can be dangerous. For a safer alternative, consider diffusing essential oils in a diffuser and inhaling the scent.

What oils calm you down?

Certain essential oils may calm down the body physiologically or psychologically. These include rose, orange, frankincense, chamomile, clary sage, bergamot, and lavender.

What oils help with depression?

Little research has been done into essential oils’ effect on depression and no essential oils are approved by the FDA as a depression treatment. However, some studies suggest rose, orange, and clary sage may help.

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